Family Heritage and Individual Identity

The participation of family members in processes such as creating stories enhances family bonding and the definition of the identity of a family and its members. Family traditions and cultural legacies influence an individual’s self-identity in various ways. These influences may be either positive or negative. Favorable legacies entail aspects that portray features such as cohesive, hardworking and caring families. On the other hand, negative legacies describe aspects that are unattractive and often face rejection by family members. However, the way individuals respond to these legacies vary. In this regard, some individuals may reject legacies that some generations view as positive, and adopt negative family legacies. Moreover, some individuals may adopt portions of both beneficial and negative legacies. In some cases, individuals extend family legacies in order to address aspects of interaction with non-family members.

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One of the main channels through which families create a sense of identity among its members, and foster family culture is family narratives. Family storytelling presents a firsthand opportunity for individuals to define themselves. The scope of family narratives accommodates a variety of participants from different generations. Thus, it creates a comprehensive framework upon which family members can jointly participate in the evaluation of norms and traditions that facilitate the identity development. The contribution by family members from different generations in family narratives introduces impacts on identity at the individual, family and cultural level. Family narratives allow people to share certain events, and serve as a collection of intergeneration norms and cultures that impact different family generations and thus become family legacies. Legacies are crucial in the sharing of family history as they preserve identity and meanings across generations. In this regard, they constitute intergenerational traditions and condensed histories. When individuals reflect on the content and process of family narratives, they change their perceptions about life accordingly. However, the extent to which family members accept, discard or extend family legacies is subject to aspects of family culture relating to the legacies in question.

The impacts of family legacies are most significant among certain groups of individuals. This is because at some stages, people start making considerations for the larger community as they anticipated starting their own families. Family legacies influence such individuals’ pursuance of their identity as adults. Family traditions and cultural legacies provide a source of knowledge that individuals use to define their personal and collective identities. These interpretations influence an individual’s perception of moral values and various aspects of his or her social life. The meanings derived from family legacies are not restricted within the family, but also affect the life of an individual beyond the family context.

The regulations on family narratives ensure minimal alteration of meanings so that subsequent generations do not discard traditions and culture due to misinterpretations. Modification of family narratives and legacies in subsequent generations occurs as individuals deliberate on appropriate portions of the legacies that they should retain as a component for defining individual and family identity. Although history influences an individual’s sense of identity, people also play an active role in defining their own identity. In this regard, individuals can modify various aspects communicated through history by accepting some portions, rejecting others or displaying neutrality. Various personal and societal considerations cause individuals to modify the content communicated through history to fit their reflections on culture and family legacies. Thus, the historical content that does not meet the criteria of individuals or groups undergo rejection. Cultural values considerably influence legacies and sharing of history. Individuals who associate with certain norms and traditions perceive family legacies within a culturally defined scope. In this regard, their representation of intergenerational values depicts aspects of an inherited culture. 

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