Diferences in family ritualization: implications for family functioning and the separation and adjustment of late adolescents
Studies have shown that an emphasis on family rituals may serve the family by promoting cohesiveness, protecting and stabilizing the family during periods of stress and crisis, and fostering and maintaining the family identity. Several family researchers have concluded that family health and strength go hand and hand with a family's establishing a valued set of rituals and traditions. Some theorists have also suggested that rituals provide benefits for the individual members in providing a link with the family during the process of adolescent separation and autonomy development. The present study tested five hypotheses using a sample of 152 male and 183 female freshman college students, late adolescents in the process of separating from their families. These students completed the Family Rituals Measure which assesses ritualization in terms of the importance given to rituals and the flexible adaptation of the rituals practiced. Measures of family cohesion, family functioning, psychological separation, and college adjustment were also administered. Canonical correlations were conducted to assess the effects of ritual commitment and flexibility on the level of cohesion and overall functioning of the family, and on the successful separation and adjustment of members leaving the family. The results indicated that frequency of ritualization, importance placed on rituals, and the flexibility of rituals were all positively associated with family cohesion and healthy functioning, correlating with expressiveness, organization, and low family conflict. Family ritualization was not highly predictive of psychological separateness or college adjustment. However, the combination of ritual commitment and flexibility with healthy family functioning produced a significant association with psychological separation, with conflicting subscale results. These conflicting results concerning the assessment of psychological separation and the role of rituals in the separation process are discussed. Conclusions are drawn regarding the benefits of rituals for the family and individual members based on the findings, with suggestions for further research.