What supports strong family relationships
Two main dimensions of the parenting role have been found to have important effects on family relationships and on children’s development, no matter what kind of family children are raised in. These are:
- communicating with warmth and care
- establishing clear and appropriate limits for children’s behaviourPositive styles of communication are a common element that supports both of these dimensions. All families experience ups and downs as they strive to do their best for children and deal with challenges that come along.
A recent study* asked Australian families of different kinds to nominate what they considered to be the characteristics that made their families strong in spite of any difﬁculties they might face. This table shows the eight characteristics that were identiﬁed. They form the building blocks of healthy family relationships.
Family strengths as identiﬁed by Australian families
Communication – listening to each other and communicating with openness and honesty.
Togetherness – sharing similar values and beliefs that create a sense of belonging and bonding.
Sharing activities – spending time together doing things they enjoy, for example, sports, reading, camping, playing games.
Affection – showing affection and care on a regular basis through words, hugs, kisses and thoughtfulness.
Support – offering and being able to ask for support, with family members knowing they will receive assistance, encouragement and reassurance from one another.
Acceptance – understanding, respecting and appreciating each family member’s unique personal qualities.
Commitment – seeing family wellbeing as a ﬁrst priority and acting accordingly with dedication and loyalty.
Resilience – being able to withstand difﬁculties and adapt to changing circumstances in positive ways.
Families in this research also identiﬁed that the biggest challenges in family relationships were communication breakdown, parenting issues and difﬁcult relationship dynamics. Acknowledging existing family strengths is a good starting point for addressing challenges and building stronger family relationships.
* 1 Geggie, J., DeFrain, J., Hitchcock, S. & Silberberg, S. (2000). Family Strengths Research Project. Newcastle NSW: Family Action Centre, University of Newcastle.