The data was gathered across Europe
, Asia and South America from the International Survey of Children’s Well-Being
, a survey supported by the Jacobs Foundation
, a Zurich-based organization that focuses on providing schools around the globe with science-based knowledge to help kids succeed
Family connection was determined by a mean score of five categories: care, apoyo, la seguridad, respeto, and participation. For each subject, participants were given a statement and asked to assess how much they agreed with it, scoring from zero (do not agree) a 4 (strongly agree). Por ejemplo, to measure care, children were asked how much they agreed with the statement, “I feel safe at home.”
The essence of family connection is children feeling that they are accepted and nurtured at home, which allows them to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are in a safe environment as they are building their identity, Whitaker said.
Flourishing was determined by a mean score of six categories: self-acceptance, purpose in life, positive relations with others, personal growth, environmental mastery and autonomy. The survey structure was the same as that for family connections, except the ranking system ranged from zero to 10.
When it comes to flourishing, it’s about kids accepting their strengths and weaknesses and then being able to use their strengths to find their purpose in life, él dijo.
Children can thrive, not just survive
Children with the greatest level of family connection were over 49% more likely to flourish compared with those with the lowest level of family connection, según el estudio.
It’s not enough to not have depression and anxiety to live a good life, according to Elaine Reese, a professor of psychology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, Nueva Zelanda, who was not involved in the study.
“A good life entails having a sense of purpose and meaning, which is what the flourishing scale in this study measured,” ella dijo.
The highest scores in both family connection and flourishing came from children who said they live with both parents, have enough food or never have their family worrying about finances.
Researchers then controlled the data for families’ poverty levels, including financial circumstances and food insecurity, to remove the effect they may have had on the numbers. After controlling for these factors, the strength of family connections still impacted how much children flourished.
How to strengthen family connection
Adults have a very powerful influence on the emotional climate in the home, so it’s important to create a space where children feel seen and heard, Whitaker said.
A great opportunity to strengthen family bonds is around the dinner table, él dijo. Adults should create an environment where children feel comfortable speaking freely. While they are talking, grown-ups should show that they have a genuine interest in what their children are saying and try to suspend judgment, Whitaker added.
Adults do not need to make grand gestures to bond with their children, Reese said. Having meaningful conversations is more important for your connection than taking them on expensive trips, ella dijo.
Silence is also another powerful form of communication, él dijo.
Children and parents or their caregivers spending time together in silence or even running an errand or doing chores can create a connection, according to Whitaker.
“We don’t necessarily need to fill those moments with chatter or the radio,” él dijo.
Other adults may impact how children flourish
En el futuro, Whitaker said he wants to research the impact community members like teachers have on children.
“We suspect that sense of connection to non-parental adults probably adds to the likelihood that teen will flourish,” dijo en un correo electrónico.
Outside relationships are important and do impact children, especially during infancy and early childhood, said Kelly-Ann Allen, an educational and developmental psychologist and senior lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She was not involved in the study.
“If children experience healthy trusting relationships early, they are more likely to establish healthy trusting relationships as adults,” ella dijo.