You may be surprised to learn (as I was) that one important contributor to our resilience and our ability to ride the ups and downs of life is our knowledge of our family's story. I first read about this claim and the research that backs it up in a 2013 New York Times article by Bruce Feiler. The article, titled "The Stories That Bind Us," discusses the groundbreaking research of Dr. Marshall Duke, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
In his quest to test this hypothesis, Dr. Duke and a colleague developed a series of twenty questions that would provide a measure of how much a person knows about his or her family’s story. Example questions included: Do you know how your parents met? Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up? Do you know the source of your name? Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
As stated in the New York Times article, "The more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successful they believed their families functioned. The Do You Know? scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children's emotional health and happiness."
Just a few months after completing this research, the attacks of 9/11 occurred. Dr. Duke and his colleague followed up with their research subjects and again saw that the children with the most knowledge of their family's history tended to be more resilient to the stress created by this horrific event.
To be a person is to have a story to tell.
Hi. My name is Kathryn Elizabeth Wilson Englert. People call me Kathy.
I live in Seattle, Washington with my husband and daughter, but our daughter is all grown up now and attends Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. We miss her.
Although I live in the Pacific Northwest and absolutely love it here, my roots are in North Carolina. There are things I miss about the South (a warm ocean, the sound of cicadas, dramatic thunderstorms, BBQ and sweet iced tea, and, of course, my family) and I get to enjoy all of these when I visit each summer. But the Pacific Northwest is home to me now. Its mountains, rivers, evergreens, wild coast, progressive ideals, and people have endeared me to this place. I think I'll stay a while.
I hope you enjoy my blog. In keeping with the theme of personal history, I write about the importance of story and why it matters that we capture the thoughts and memories of our loved ones.