Family is an immensely vast term. It can mean anything from a group of unrelated people who treat each other with care and respect, to the physical linking of people due to their relatives. Family can have both a positive and negative connotation; a family of thieves is very different than a family of do-gooders. This brief article will address family in the sense of lineage, that is, actual relatives, and the bond between family members will be especially focused on.
Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even more distant ties are all considered to be family. Some families are small, others are large, some are close (both in mind and location), and others are distant. Even with so many differences from family to family, one common thread can be commonly found in families throughout the world. That common thread can be referred to as mental attachment.
When we are born, we immediately form a very strong attachment with our mother. The bond with our father comes next, and as we age, we learn how to form stronger bonds with the other people in our life. The reason why babies form such strong bonds with their mother and father so quickly has everything to do with survival.
Some people argue that our closest relative is the monkey. Have you ever seen a newborn monkey? It clings to its mother desperately, and with good reason, because mother monkeys continue to move about, eat, forage, and swing from limb to limb with their newborns. If a baby monkey were to be less closely bonded with its mother, it may reach out to another monkey just as the mother is preparing to jump, and the outcome would be less than favorable.
So humans rely on their bond with their immediate family to protect them and care for them as they age into early childhood. What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, if you are already living on your own, you are probably familiar with that desire to call or visit your parents from time to time. Perhaps your relationship with your parents is actually pretty bad, perhaps one of your parents was never there when you were a child. I’ll bet you still get that urge to make contact, to touch base. This feeling can be directly related to our infancy.
John Bowlby, known as the father of the attachment theory, believes that the parent-child bond is the most contributing factor to a child’s developing personality. The attachment that forms between children and their parents, siblings, and more distant family helps keep families together, even when tragedies occur, or when disputes threaten to break the family apart.
So the next time you are sitting at the picnic table at your family reunion, watching Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Benjamin bicker about the potatoes, wondering why you came, think about how beneficial your bond with your family is. After all, who else will loan you a hundred dollars, albeit begrudgingly, the next time you are in a jam?