homepage logo

BYU study details importance of family history for young adults

By Sarah Hunt - | Feb 26, 2023

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Soon-to-be graduates wave to family and friends before Brigham Young University's commencement ceremony held Thursday, April 25, 2019, at the Marriott Center in Provo.

When it comes to young adults, an intimate knowledge of family history can strengthen their sense of self by maintaining a healthy balance of family and personal values, according to a study conducted by Brigham Young University.

“From a survey of 239 18-to-20-year-old students at seven U.S. universities, researchers found that individuals who had the healthiest identity development — both a sense of connectedness to family and adherence to their own beliefs — also had high levels of family history knowledge,” reads a university release.

Students at BYU, Western Kentucky, Michigan State, Clemson, Indiana, Texas A&M and Western Washington were asked if they were aware of major life events and important stories in their grandparents and parents lives.

The study assessed how much a student’s identity has been developed, based on traditional gauges including closeness to family, how they gained religious and political views, how they discovered options for a career and the amount of dedication they showed towards their values.

Results indicate that a high percentage of youth know a lot about their family history —  approximately 77% of students were able to answer 75% of genealogy questions. Chances of a strong sense of identity increased with the amount of information students knew about their family history.

“Family history knowledge is particularly good at keeping us grounded,” Brian Hill, BYU experience design and management professor and co-author of the study, said in the press release. “There are kids who go off and explore their own paths without settling into a value system that can guide them going forward. We need knowledge of where we come from along with individual differentiation from family to find a steady path.”

One negative finding showed that adolescents who knew a lot of their family history could feel limited independence within their families, potentially due to perceived pressure to conform to generational values. Parents and teachers can avoid this by talking about family history with approaches that let youth gain autonomy from interpreting these stories for themselves, without influencing these minors to their own personal beliefs about the story’s meaning, according to the study.

It’s not just college students who are strengthening their identities by learning their family history. Connect Our Kids, a technology-focused nonprofit, helps social workers aid foster children in finding direct and extended family members, forming relationships with them and finding a sense of community with others in foster care.

The organization utilizes FamilySearch, the genealogical archive system operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alongside over 300 public databases to assist social workers in finding connections to relatives of foster children.

“Knowing your family history helps you know who you are and where you come from. This information helps to heal trauma,” Jessica Stern, co-founder of Connect Our Kids, said in a press release. “FamilySearch is an incredible and powerful tool for children in foster care to discover their roots, which leads to healing trauma and moving into adulthood with confidence.”

RootsTech 2023, genealogy conference organized by FamilySearch, is scheduled for March 4-6 in Salt Lake City.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)