How to help teenagers manage their emotions? 0:53 (CNN) — Children with strong family ties are associated with a high probability of thriving in life, according to a new study. Numerous studies have shown that strong family ties reduce the chances of poor outcomes in children, such as risky behavior and drug abuse, but this study revealed that there may be positive outcomes as well, said study lead author Dr. Robert Whitaker, director of the Columbia-Bassett Research Program at Columbia University in New York City. “What was different about this study was that it showed that family connectedness is associated with prosperity and not just survival or harm avoidance,” Whitaker said. Researchers surveyed more than 37,000 children in 26 countries and found that teens who reported having a great relationship with their family also reported success in life. The study, published in the academic journal Pediatrics, included children ages 11 to 13 who were surveyed between 2016 and 2019. The data was collected across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America from the International Child Well-Being Survey. , a survey supported by the Jacobs Foundation, a Zurich-based organization that focuses on providing schools around the world with science-based knowledge to help children thrive. Family connectedness was determined by a mean score from five categories: attention, support, safety, respect, and involvement. For each topic, participants were given a statement and asked to rate the extent to which they agreed with it, scoring from 0 (disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). For example, to measure caring, children were asked to what extent they agreed with the statement “I feel safe at home.” The essence of family connection is children feeling accepted and cared for at home, allowing them to learn their strengths and weaknesses in a safe environment while building their identity, Whitaker said. Prosperity or success was determined by a mean score from six categories: self-acceptance, purpose in life, positive relationships with others, personal growth, environmental mastery, and autonomy. The structure of the survey was the same as for family ties, except that the ranking system went from zero to ten. In terms of prosperity or success, it’s about children accepting their strengths and weaknesses and being able to use their strengths to find their purpose in life, he said. Children Can Thrive, Not Just Survive According to the study, children with the highest level of family connection were 49% more likely to thrive than those with the lowest level of family connection. According to Elaine Reese, a psychology professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, who was not involved in the study, not having depression or anxiety is enough to live a good life. “A good life involves having a sense of purpose and meaning, which is what the flourishing scale measures in this study,” she said. The highest scores, both in family connection and prosperity, were obtained by children who said they lived with both parents, that they had enough food or that their family never worried about finances. The researchers then controlled the data for household poverty levels, including financial circumstances and food insecurity, to remove any effect these might have on the numbers. After controlling for these factors, the strength of family connections still influenced how well off the children were. How to strengthen the family connection Adults have a very powerful influence on the emotional climate of the home, so it is important to create a space in which children feel seen and heard, Whitaker said. A great opportunity to strengthen family ties is around the table, she said. Adults should create an environment where children feel comfortable speaking freely. As they talk, adults should show they have a genuine interest in what their children are saying and try to suspend judgment, Whitaker added. Adults don’t need to make big gestures to bond with their kids, Reese said. Having meaningful conversations is more important to their connection than taking them on expensive trips, she said. Silence is also another powerful form of communication, she stated. According to Whitaker, the fact that minors and parents or their caregivers spend time together in silence, or even running an errand or a task, can create a connection. “You don’t need to fill those moments with talk or radio,” she said. Other Adults Can Influence Children’s Development Going forward, Whitaker said she wants to investigate the impact community members, such as teachers, have on children. “We suspect that the sense of connection to adults other than the parents probably contributes to the likelihood that the adolescent will thrive,” she explained in an email. Outside relationships are important and have an impact on children, especially during infancy and early childhood, said Kelly-Ann Allen, an educational and developmental psychologist and professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia who was not involved in the study. . “If children experience healthy trusting relationships at a young age, they are more likely to establish healthy trusting relationships as adults,” she said.
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