In American society the divorce rate may be decreasing, but so is the rate for marriages.  Statistics show the divorce rate to be close to fifty percent for first marriages; couples with children have a slightly lower rate.[1]  Homes with two parents decreased significantly in the span between 1960 and 2009.   In 1960, 91 percent of families were two parent households.  This decreased to 73 percent in 2009.[1] Between 1960 and 2007 the number of cohabitating unmarried couples increased by 88 percent.[1]  Married or unmarried, what keeps couples together? 

1.  Members Sacrifice

Members in a healthy family are willing to make sacrifices for the unit as a whole and for each Sacrifice; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft Officeother.  The members do not carry a “me only” attitude, but rather a “family first” attitude.  This does not mean members do not strive for and recognize personal achievements.  It means members are willing to compromise and make personal sacrifices for the good of the unit as a whole.

A simple example is choosing personal activities that do not interfere with family activities.  Many households are caught up in the frantic lifestyle of carpooling the kids from one activity to another. Too many times other household members are at the mercy of one or two members’ activities.   Sacrifices can be small and still benefit the family unit.

2. Members Show Appreciation

Appreciation; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft OfficeFamilies who enjoy healthy relationships with each other recognize the value of each member and show appreciation for each other.  Individual members are seldom taken for granted. Each is recognized for the particular roles in the family.  Household members acknowledge talents and gifts of the other members.

Families functioning in a healthy way notice the “little” things others do; for example acknowledging another member who helps to bring in groceries without being asked.  Members willingly offer their assistance to other members of the unit.

3. Members Have Good Communication

Healthy families engage in communication using healthy communication styles. They speak Good Communication; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft Officefrom love and kindness, even in anger or disappointment.  There is two-way communication and each member is allowed individual feelings and thoughts.  Disputes are resolved in a healthy, positive manner.

Discussions occur frequently in these households. Children are encouraged to voice opinions. Parents lead by example, teaching their children to communicate clearly to others.  The members learn the love language of the other members and are able to communicate in that language.

4.  Members Cultivate Time Together

Time Together; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft OfficeFamily members enjoy spending time together and make it a point to do so.  Households implementing “family nights” or weekend family activities give themselves the opportunity to stay connected.  households who function well tend to spend time together and they enjoy that time.  Individual activities are not allowed to infringe upon the family time.


5. Members Display Coping Abilities

Life can be stressful, but families who are structurally sound exhibit good coping abilities. Coping Abilities; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft Office Parents are able to manage their stress and teach their children how to manage stress. Many situations arise during in the lives of people and many of those situations can be stress inducing.  Well-functioning households know how to cope with almost anything that comes their way. When something happens out of the ordinary, such as a life threatening illness or even a death, the healthy family has the ability to cope with the stress associated with such an event.  That is not to say there will not be times when the family struggles. However, these household members pull together and if necessary know when and how to get help if needed.

6. Members Exude a Sense of Spiritual Wellness

The majority of truly healthy families exhibit a sense of spiritual wellness as a family. The Spirituality; Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft Officeadage “the family that prays together, stays together” seems to have strong support.  Regardless of the religion, households who share a belief system tend to stay together.  A healthy family unit is one who has a spiritual basis for its core belief system.

Healthy families thrive when these characteristics are evident.  Even well-functioning households have disputes and undergo stressful situations, but these members have the ability to push through troubling times in a healthy manner. They are a strong unit who support and discipline family members with love.


The copyright of the article The Top Characteristics of Healthy Families is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.