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Identity. Family Traditions and Cultural Legacies

Self-identity is a construct that entails individual’s awareness of themselves against a background of various characteristics like gender, sexuality racial identity and many others. Self-identity is more general than self-esteem and self-confidence because the latter two cannot exist in the absence of self-identity. Self-identity as a construct is not restricted to the present moment, it encompasses the past and the future selves and it corresponds to hopes, fears, standards, values, norms, goals and threats. Identity is something that everyone strives to find about themselves and everyone wants to have a separate identity from those in their lineage (O’Neill 5). However, people cannot exist in isolation which means that identity is shaped by factors outside their own control. For example, everyone wants to have a cultural and a family background forming a basis for their identification. Identity comes from the generic markers and the immediate environment of a person meaning that family traditions and cultural legacies influence the concept of self-identity. Past circumstances in the family and within the culture can affect ones future self-identity. For example, a parent may want their children to recognize something about their heritage but the children may not be interested which mean that such a conflict may affect self-identity.

The major influences of self-identity are cultural legacies and family traditions. The two can promote or inhibit the development of self-identity. There are scholars who maintain that family traditions and cultural legacies inhibit an individual’s self- identity more than they promote but this paper challenges that assertion because the two factors actually promote self-identity. How do family traditions and cultural legacies contribute to self-identity of an individual? Starting with cultural legacies, it is important to note that parents from different cultural backgrounds relate to their children differently and how they socialize with their children determines the development of self-identity in their children. For example, European parents stimulate their children more than African parents. European parents take time to socialize with their children and plays games of coordination that shape their self-concept and identity. American parents on the other hand talk to their children more and encourage them to involve in physical activities and this shapes their self-perception and identity. However, African parents do not participate in shaping the self-identity of their children (Barnard 89). The children are carried on mothers back till they are very old and this delays the onset of speaking and even walking. This has a future effect of the self-identity of such a child.

Socialization differs from one culture to another and it affects physical development, mental attitudes, initiatives and expectations which are integral components of self-identity meaning that proper socialization promotes an individual’s self-identity. One of the most important socialization agents is school which provides decades of development and socialization where the children are taught to keep within certain acceptable boundaries and fulfill certain expectations that contribute to future success. The school enforces certain behavioral principles that make the students acceptable members of the society and since the school is a part of a cultural legacy, it plays a very important role in the promotion of the self-identity of the students. People in different cultures undergo different experiences of socialization and they account for the difference in self-identity among people of different cultures. Culture as a shared experience of a people allows the children to take part in significant experiences of their society and this becomes their social identity. Some phrases used unto the children in specific cultures shape their self-identity. When a child is shown what is good for them, how to do things on their own, how to be a better person and what is expected of them, their sense of self identity is nurtured and these children are different from those from cultures where the children are not encouraged to be better people, to do things on their own or to learn what is expected of them.

Another cultural aspect that enhances self-identity is negotiation. People of different cultures living and working together must learn how to negotiate and this learning is natural and subconscious. Negotiation occurs because diversity in cultures creates divergent assumptions and expectations and if the cultural differences are not managed through proper negotiation, conflict can arise and this may affect the development of self-identify of the people in the concerned cultures. Negotiation in cultural legacies therefore forestalls conflict thus promoting the development of self-identity of individual s within that culture (Leary 47).

This paper has so far focused on the contribution of cultural legacies towards the development of individual identity. The second part of the paper will focus on the impact of family traditions on individuals self-identity. What are family traditions? These are the things that family members do together regularly and they include patterns of behaviors evident in the families or activities that the family enjoys. How do family traditions contribute to self-identity? To start with, family traditions create good feelings and special memorable moments which elicit positive emotions in that are vital in the development of positive self-identity (Meyers 25). Secondly, the traditions give members of the family a stronger sense of belonging especially through the relationships and family bonds which keep on being strengthened by the things members of the family share.

Family traditions promote individual self-identity by imparting family values into the members of the family. When members of the family spend quality time together, they naturally teach each other values that should be upheld. Spending quality time together helps the parents to talk to their children about serious issues which in the long run improve their self-identity. Family traditions also offer a strong sense of security and whenever a family member faces a difficult situation, they can rest assured that they have the security and support of a family. This promotes self-identity because this security and support are very strong tools that the younger members of the family use against negative pressure from their peers and keeps them away from trouble. All in all, family traditions should be observed and at no time should the observance of these traditions cease because these traditions define the family and promote the self identity of the family members. All in all the illustrations given in this paper clearly illustrate that family traditions and cultural legacies do not inhibit an individual’s self- identity. The two factors illustrated above actually promote self identity of an individual.

Works Cited

Barnard, Alistair. Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. London: Routledge.1996.

Leary, Tangney. Handbook of self and identity. New York: Guilford Press. 2003.

Meyers, Clint. Being yourself: essays on identity, action, and social life. Feminist constructions. MA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.

O’Neill, Markus. Possible Selves. NY: Sage. 2000.


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