Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Family History for Right Now

Several years ago, there was much ado about Bruce Feiler's article in the New York Times entitled "The Stories that Bind Us."  In it he talked about how family history stories give kids resilience.  His assertions were based on some studies done in the Psychology Department of Emory University.  There, in the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Marshall Duke, Robyn Fivush, Jennifer Bohanek, noticed that children who knew more about their family history did better in therapy.  They created the "Do You Know" test with 20 questions about family history.  They found that the children who scored the highest on on the test also scored higher in tests of feeling like they have a sense of control in their world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience.  

A sense of control in the world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience!! Exactly what we all need--no matter what age you are--in these surprising, challenging, crazy pandemic times.  

Now is the perfect moment for each of us to look to our ancestors for strength and inspiration.  Now is the perfect time to instill those stories in our family members to lower anxiety and produce more resilience.  When you tell a family story, in person, over social media or over video conferencing, you are creating more peace in the midst of the storm.

SO, we've decided to look to our ancestors with you, over social media, our newsletter and etc. with the hashtag #ResilientRoots.  We hope you will join us and share your ancestor's stories of faith, resilience, patience, perseverance, flexibility, optimism, kindness, grace and connection.  We're excited to share ours with you.  I think we can all find the hope we need already inside us.  It is in the very DNA they gave us.  

Watch over the next couple of weeks:
Here on the blog

To read more: 
My previous writings about the science behind family history:

Bruce Feiler's RootsTech Keynote:

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Duke, Marshall.  Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “The Intergenerational Self: Subjective Perspective and Family History.” in F. Sani (Ed.) Individual and Collective Self-Continuity.  Mahwah, NH: Erlbaum, 2007. Available at

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Zayman, Widaad. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “Personal and intergenerational narratives in relation to adolescents’ well-being.” In T. Habermas (ed.). The development of autobiographical reasoning in adolescence and beyond. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 131. 45-57. 

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