The importance of analyzing one’s heritage lies in people’s need to understand their culture and compare it to the customs of other people. As individuals learn more about their families and behaviors that are unique or inherent in their communities, they can find that their personal values and habits were developed under the influence of many factors. For example, one’s opinions on family structure and romantic relationships can be a product of their cultural upbringing. Similarly, one’s views on education are a part of their learned cultural worldview. Eller (2016) states that every person can benefit from becoming more aware of ideas that are shared among different cultural groups. Such an understanding can give people an opportunity to look more deeply into themselves and take their ability to self-reflect to a new level. This paper will focus on my personal family heritage and explore the influences of my family and culture on my identity, values, opinions, and spirituality.
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First of all, it is crucial to state that I am African-American. My ethnicity is an essential part of my identity because it shapes many traditions that my family and community had before and continue to have even now. According to Tang, McLoyd, and Hallman (2016), one’s racial identity can significantly affect different aspects of his or her life starting from early childhood. In this case, cultural socialization can shape people’s personality and influence their behavior in different groups and public settings, including family gatherings, schools, or other spaces. Therefore, my childhood was also influenced by my ethnicity. My parents always upheld traditional values, and I notice similar behavioral patterns in myself. For instance, their appreciation for the elements of African-American culture and their security in their cultural identity was a great example for me as a child. I grew up carrying similar notions about self-worth that my parents helped me to understand.
It is clear that my parents’ self-identification and connection to their culture impacted the way I currently interact with my ethnicity. Tang et al. (2016) note that parents’ successful racial socialization can have a positive impact on the identity of their children. On the other hand, their inability to address racial socialization can adversely affect children’s preparedness for interactions with other people and lower the appreciation for their cultural background. I believe that my parents’ socialization in their local community allowed my siblings and I to receive positive messages about our heritage and gain a more prideful outlook on our family history. Therefore, I was able to embrace my culture and avoid losing or misinterpreting my racial identity. For example, it is easy for me to identify myself regarding ethnicity and acknowledge that part of my heritage.
My parents were married for 22 years until my father passed away. Close relationships with my parents, my four siblings, and I significantly affected the way I currently understand the concept of family. Moreover, my mother and father had a strong and lasting relationship which showed me the importance of family. I was also married for nine years, but I got divorced seven years ago. However, my understanding of family remains positive as my background showed me that connections and personal relationships are an inherent part of one’s life. Therefore, I intend on marrying again in the future. It is possible to assume that romantic life of parents can change the way their children view family and relationships when they get older. According to Lei et al. (2016), the perception of romantic relationships can be influenced by different factors, including one’s location, upbringing, and culture. I was raised in a two-parent household, and both of my parents tried to nurture the idea of family being a valuable part of one’s life.
The presence of siblings affected my life as well. I have two brothers and two sisters. I am also a twin. Familial relations can teach a person to develop various personal habits and traits. As Whiteman, Solmeyer, and McHale (2015) point out, sibling relations are characterized by polarized emotions. Brothers and sisters can encourage each other and feel compassion and love towards each other. On the other hand, they can also have very strained relationships, where continuous rivalry causes even more conflict situations to occur. My personal experience and the experience of my siblings also show that both sides of these emotions impacted the way we behave now. For example, I believe that having many siblings allowed me to be more used to waiting and made me patient. The cultural worldview of my family placed much value on family relations, so our negative experiences with each other were often viewed as temporary and secondary to our status as siblings.
Currently, I also have a big family as I have four children – three girls and one boy. Their age differences range from five to two years, and I try to teach them the same values that I have learned as a child. For example, the importance of traditional values such as the focus on family and close relationships continues to be an indispensable component of my parenting methods. I try to participate in the lives of my children in the same way as my parents once did. Both my mother and father were always engaged with my school’s activities. Thus, I often notice that I repeat their actions as I often express the same emotions and repeat their words in similar situations. Our family shares the opinion that education is valuable and can give one many opportunities for successful living. Moreover, it can help achieve career goals to support one’s family and raise children.
I grew up in a small town, McKinney, Texas, which also influenced the way my family members acted and communicated with each other. As my parents were actively participating in the life of the local community, my siblings and I learned to interact with our neighbors and be open in our communications. The importance of unity was and is one of the leading characteristics of our family. Moreover, the necessity to participate in town events and activities also remains a part of our family worldview. As an adult, I continue to believe that involvement in the lives of the local community can bring many benefits to other people and myself as well. It is possible that my occupation as a healthcare worker also can be explained by my family’s active role in the lives of other people. The readiness to participate in the improvement of the town’s culture and infrastructure is a trait that all caretakers should have.
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Another type of influence that can be clearly identified in my heritage is the spirituality of our household. I was raised Baptist, and my parents were involved with the local religious centers. During my time in McKinney, all members of my family went to church two times a week, every Wednesday and Sunday. Our regular visits to church show that the traditional values of our family are also based on religious beliefs. I continued to incorporate these religious outlooks into my life and the lives of my children until my late thirties when I decided to switch to Pantheism. While this new set of beliefs and concepts is different from my family’s religion, it has the same level of importance to me regarding its spirituality. The influence of my parents exists in my desire to continue my religious practices. It is also the foundation of my need to find myself in this world as a unique spiritual person and as a part of this universe.
Religion can be considered one of the central elements that can become the heritage of a family, community, or culture. According to Gutierrez, Goodwin, Kirkinis, and Mattis (2014), many African Americans consider religion to be a significant part of their lives. Therefore, the presence of faith in my life and the lives of my family members can be explained by our ethnic identity. However, the worldview of our family also values religion and actively incorporates it into our everyday lives. As a spiritual person, I continue to think about my connection to the world of religion. Moreover, I teach the same values to my children, whose inheritance of cultural values continues our family heritage.
Currently, I have children who form the new generation in our family. Thus, it is necessary for me to teach them values that I had learned from my parents when I was young. I continue to imprint similar traditional values that were upheld by my father. I show them the importance of family and the benefits that active participation in community life can bring. Furthermore, I teach them about religion and spirituality, although my faith is different from that of my parents. My children are the next generation to learn about the cultural worldview of our family. While it changes with time as the time progresses, some traditions and behaviors stay the same. For example, as I mentioned before, I continue to participate in my children’s academic lives, following behavioral patterns similar to those of my parents. I try to teach them about the importance of knowing and appreciating your cultural and ethnic identities. Furthermore, similarly to my parents, I value family and relationships and believe that I will marry someone again.
Every trait and behavior mentioned above were formed because of various conditions that surrounded me during my childhood and adolescence. My family greatly influenced the way I raise my children. It also shaped my worldview and affected my career choices, religious beliefs, and personal relationships. Although while growing up, I had many other influences in my life, my family was and still is the most impactful part of my existence. My parents and their lessons, as well as their behavior, impacted the way I act and think. My family’s values include helping people, having high moral standards, putting the priority on familial ties, and being an activist in your local community. I integrated all parts of this cultural identity into my life and work, and I now strive to instill these values in my children.
Eller, J. D. (2016). Cultural anthropology: Global forces, local lives (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Gutierrez, I. A., Goodwin, L. J., Kirkinis, K., & Mattis, J. S. (2014). Religious socialization in African American families: The relative influence of parents, grandparents, and siblings. Journal of Family Psychology, 28(6), 779-789.
Lei, M. K., Beach, S. R., Simons, R. L., Barr, A. B., Cutrona, C. E., & Philibert, R. A. (2016). Stress, relationship satisfaction, and health among African American women: Genetic moderation of effects. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(2), 221-232.
Tang, S., McLoyd, V. C., & Hallman, S. K. (2016). Racial socialization, racial identity, and academic attitudes among African American adolescents: Examining the moderating influence of parent–adolescent communication. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(6), 1141-1155.
Whiteman, S. D., Solmeyer, A. R., & McHale, S. M. (2015). Sibling relationships and adolescent adjustment: Longitudinal associations in two-parent African American families. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 44(11), 2042-2053.