From the early 1900’s, family studies focused mostly on the weaknesses within families.
Beginning in the 1960s, however, a few outlier scholars started trying to identify the traits healthy families have in common. Herbert Otto, of the University of Utah, made one of the first lists. It included: shared religious and moral values; consideration; common interests; love and happiness of children; working and playing together.
By 1989, there were enough of these lists that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services invited a dozen researchers to a conference in Washington, DC, and asked them to find common ground on this issue. As the organizers stated on the eve of the conference,
“Researchers, policy makers, and the media have focused considerable attention on how some families are failing. Much less attention has been paid to strong, healthy families, and the characteristics that make them successful.”
Each scientist in attendance had already published a list of the qualities successful families share. For the first time, though, organizers closely reviewed two dozen of these lists to see if they could establish consensus. According to them, it was remarkably easy. The master list contained nine items.
Family members talk to one another often, in a manner that’s honest, clear, and open, even when they disagree.
2. Encouragement of individuals
Strong families appreciate each member’s uniqueness while cultivating a sense of belonging to the whole.
3. Commitment to the family
Members of successful families make it clear to one another,and to the world, that their allegiance to their family is strong.
4. Religious/ spiritual well-being
Researchers concluded that a shared value system and moral code were common among highly functioning families. But they said these values were not contingent on membership in any denomination or frequent attendance at worship services.
5. Social connectedness
Successful families are not isolated; they are connected to the wider society, and they reach out to friends and neighbors in crisis.
Strong families are structured yet flexible, and they adjust their structure in response to stress.
People in strong families care deeply for one another, and they express their feelings often. Even if some members are not naturally expressive, they communicate their emotions by doing meaningful things for others.
8. Clear roles
Members of successful families are aware of their responsibilities to the group.
9. Time together
Members of strong families spend time together doing things they enjoy.