Family Rituals


  • The project upon which this work is based was supported by NIAAA Grant R01 AA 04184. We wish to thank David Reiss for his critical comments and Katharine McAvity for her editorial assistance.


Family rituals, consisting of celebrations, traditions, and patterned family interactions, are defined and illustrated in this paper. The power of ritual practice in families is explained by three underlying processes — transformation, communication, and stabilization — concepts whose roots lie in anthropology and ethology. We propose that all families struggle with finding a suitable role for rituals in their collective lives but their actual achievement varies greatly. Commitment to ritual and adaptability of ritual practice throughout the family life cycle are important considerations. The utility of these concepts in the assessment and treatment of families is discussed.