Building Family Assets: New Research Shows How Everyone Can Be Involved

Our families are the first community we belong to.  For better or worse, they shape who we are and guide who we become as adults.  Many of the young people who seek CCDOK services come with difficult familial histories, wrought with conflict and negative experiences.  More than 80% of the youth who stay at The Ark Shelter identify family relationships as a major cause for their seeking help.  Fully 100% of Ark Community Services clients describe family conflicts which have contributed to their being homeless and many of the individuals who seek Caring Network and Bridges services also tell stories of family conflict.  It’s a common theme — and one that deserves community-wide attention.  So what can we, both as service providers and as caring community members, do to help build stronger families?

A recent Search Institute study seeks to provide realistic answers to that question.  Using their more than 20 years of “Developmental Assets” research, they have developed a list of “Family Assets” as well as tools to help families, parents, community groups, and agencies like CCDOK to help build those assets in the families we serve.  According to the study:

“The Family Assets focus on how families function, not on their structure. Illuminating the ways families live their lives together—how they relate to each other, how they spend their time, and how they connect to others–allows us to draw out what it is families do in their day-to-day interactions that lead to positive outcomes. The Family Assets recognize that family members of all ages both contribute to and benefit from a strong family.”

The research draws six major conclusions:

1. The average American family surveyed scores 47 out of 100 on the Family Assets Index. The vast majority of families score between 26 and 50 (39%) or between 51 and 75 (34%).  There is significant room for improvement!

2. Families are more alike than different when it comes to overall levels of Family Assets. When comparing different subgroups of families, there are no meaningful differences in overall levels of  based on income, family structure, parents’ education level, region of the country, or immigrant status.

3. Some demographic factors do make a difference in overall levels of Family Assets, though these differences tend to be small. Some factors that do affect overall levels of Family Assets include age of the child, parenting adults’ marital status, the family’s access to basic resources in their community, race/ethnicity, and mobility.

4. Overall, parenting adults and their teens tend to report similar assets in their families.

5. Specific Family Assets and categories of assets are more or less common in American families. Families show the most strength in the category of “nurturing relationships” (average score: 12 out of 20), and the greatest needs in the categories of “establishing routines,” “adapting to challenges,” and “connecting to community” (each 8 out of 20). The most common Family Asset is “clear expectations” (84%); the least common Family Asset is “relationships with others” (22%)

6. When families foster more of these assets, both the parent and kids do better in life.Teens and parents from families with more assets tend to:

  • Have higher satisfaction with their families and their lives;
  • Take better care of their health; and
  • Contribute more to their communities

As a result of the study, researchers have developed significant and meaningful ways for each member of the community to help support and develop strong families.  Please check out this link to learn more.  CCDOK is firmly committed to strengthening families and we encourage each member of the community to join us in this important task!  If you’d like to join us in the work, please call Jeannine Boehm (269-381-1234) to learn more about volunteering opportunities.