Title

Jewish identity, family cohesion, and child well-being

Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marriage and Family Therapy

Advisor(s)

Linda Stone Fish

Keywords

Child, Cohesion, Family, Identity, Jewish, Well-being

Subject Categories

Social Psychology

Abstract

The theoretical and research literature is inundated with assumptions about ethnic identity and how it plausibly relates to individual well-being and self-esteem. Many scholars in the sociological, psychological, and family therapy fields take the logical stance that one's self-esteem is enhanced by a strong and positive ethnic identity. Although there is ample evidence that a correlation exists for African-American individuals, Jewish identity research is less definitive. There are sundry theoretical and clinical articles written about the implications of Jewish identity on families and individuals, but no one has set out to empirically test these theoretical principles. Furthermore, no one to date has studied both parents' and childrens' perceptions of Jewish identity in families.

The current research project attempted to empirically support the premise that families with stronger and more positive Jewish identities will have greater family cohesion, children with higher self-esteem, and exhibit more resiliency. Cultural, religious, and mixed families (n = 48) were recruited from Syracuse, New York through a snow-ball effect method of finding subjects. The data was analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to fully elucidate the relationship between the strength of Jewish identity and family dynamics.

Overall, the results of the quantitative analyses do not support the main hypotheses posited, but the qualitative findings do support the premise that there is a relationship between Jewish identity and the emotional well-being of the family. Many dimensions of being Jewish are revealed by the qualitative analysis that the quantitative findings do not capture. These qualitative findings suggest that Jewish identification does shape many family dynamics (parenting style, code of ethics, communication style) and enhances children's self-esteem.

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