This is the first of a three-part blog series on looking at the neuroscience behind family relationships. Deborah Peterson is an expert who has spoken around the world on family dynamics and communication. She is also one of only 4 Certified Emergenetics Master Trainers. Stay tuned, as we will churn out two additional posts on this topic!

Part 1:
A couple of months ago, a chance encounter with an old friend who was suffering the deep loss of a relationship got me thinking. If relationships are more transient than not, why do human beings put themselves in the vulnerable position of being in relationships and perhaps starting a family if there exists the possibility of not remaining a family after a while? Apart from the need for companionship (perhaps a soul mate) and the continuance of our species, does being in a family really make a difference to one’s life on earth? A disturbing question bubbled up from seemingly nowhere – do families matter…really?

Troubled by that question, I turned to my work in applied neuroscience for an impartial answer. What I found surprised me.

Apparently even at a neurological level, effective family relationships can and do have a significant role in achieving a healthy mind and body – and therefore, help us cope or thrive in challenging perhaps even stressful societies and circumstances.

A body of recent research shows that belonging to a family and/or multiple social groups is particularly critical in shielding people from the health and mental hazards of important life changes or traumas. Aside from the numerous examples of health benefits (for example: stroke patients who were socially isolated were twice as likely to have another stroke within 5 years as compared to those with meaningful social and familial relationships) research shows that being part of a meaningful family/group enhances our resilience, enabling us to cope more effectively with difficult life changes such as the death of a loved one, job or other major losses or painful transitions.

The family is where our first relationships in life are formed. And how our earliest relationships are formed fundamentally determines how we will turn out. This then shines a huge spotlight on a relationship within the family that is of utmost concern to most families – our children.

Deborah Peterson
Emergenetics International Master Trainer