Dimensions of Family Rituals Across Two Generations: Relation to Adolescent Identity


  • The author gratefully acknowledges the continuing support from members of the staff of the Center for Family Research, George Washington University, under the direction of David Reiss, M.D.


Family rituals are considered part of a generational process that fosters a sense of identity for individual members and is reflective of the family's shared belief system. The symbolic significance attached to family rituals is considered central to the force of family rituals. Three questions were addressed in the study: (1) Are the dimensions of family rituals viewed similarly across generations?; (2) Is level of ritualization related to adolescent identity?; (3) If there is disagreement about the relative level of ritualization in a family, is there a negative relation to adolescent identity? A total of 77 families with an adolescent member completed the Family Ritual Questionnaire, and the adolescents completed a measure of self-esteem. Results of a factor analysis demonstrated shared representation of family rituals across two generations, with one factor loading on the symbolic qualities of family rituals and the second factor loading on the routine aspects of family rituals. Positive relations were found between adolescent identity and the family's report of symbolic significance and affect associated with family rituals. A negative relation was found between mother-adolescent disagreement about family rituals and adolescent feelings of belonging. Distinguishing between meaning and routine aspects of family rituals is discussed as well as clinical implications.