Family Matters: DNA Research Bringing Families Together
We all know, and studies and research has proved, that our families have a profound impact on who we are and how we are. In the article Family Relationships and Wellbeing, the authors state that: ‘family relationships play a central role in shaping an individual’s well-being across the life course’. As well as our close family our more distant relatives and our family histories are almost important for many reasons.
Learning about our families and our ancestors gives us feelings of connection which is linked with better mental health. In his TED talk Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong, Johann Hari discusses the importance of the feeling of connection and argues that experiencing positive connections can help with mental health problems including addiction.
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Similarly, psychological studies, in particular those by Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush from Emory University in Georgia, USA, concluded that children who know about their family histories have better emotional resilience and have higher self-esteem. This is because finding out about our family histories can also aid our mental and emotional wellbeing by giving us hope, strength, and the knowledge that success is possible in adversity. The knowledge that our forebears went through this or that gives us the emotional strength to know that we can cope with whatever life throws at us.
How does DNA Testing Bring Families Together?
There are more obvious ways that DNA testing can put distant or unknown family members in touch with each other. After sending off your sample to whichever of the DNA testing companies you decide is the best fit for your needs your results may include, information about DNA matches, that is people who are likely to be in your family. This is if they are on the same company’s database; a good reason why it pays to research the companies before making your choice, as they all have different customer numbers. According to Pews Research, this is the reason why 36% of people take DNA tests. Examples of people finding family members this way are numerous. For ABC Journalist Whit Johnson finding family wasn’t what he was looking for, he was just interested in his ancestry because there was a mystery about it due to his father being adopted. What he found when he got his results was a close family link, which, when he clicked on it, showed someone who looked so much like his father there was no doubt it was his brother, Whit’s uncle. This discovery led to not only these brothers meeting but also a further 2 brothers and Whit got to meet with his cousins as well. A whole family brought together through DNA testing.
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However, ancestral DNA testing and the tracing of family histories also brings families, who already know each other, together through the sharing of stories and the family narrative. In discussing plans to take a DNA test and research your family history with your family members you are already beginning that bonding experience. It is a magical thing to share with all the family.
As part of family tree research, the first step is usually to interview your family members to see what they know and remember. This not only provides you with a great amount of information but also enhances the feeling of connection that many people are seeking through the DNA testing process. Your parents and grandparents, if you are lucky enough to still have them around, will be overjoyed to hear you or especially your children showing an interest in their lives and being given the opportunity to tell their stories.
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Once you have taken the test, you can then reciprocate by sharing the information and results you get back with them too. Therefore, even if you don’t connect with family members you didn’t know about, DNA testing can still bring your family together.