Family Legacies

Linda G. Bell and David C. Bell
"To grow mature is to separate more distinctly, to connect more closely."
Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929)
The Book of Friends (1922)

The Family Legacies Research Project started in the mid-70s with a study of 100 U.S. adolescent daughters and families. Home interviews focused on family discussion of differences and a family projective task. In the 1980s the same family interview was completed with 60 Japanese families. The initial focus was to look at the relationship between family systems and the development and functioning of family members, especially the effects of the family on the children growing up in the family.

This 40-year project has focused on the importance of two factors (the family climate and the adolescent's role in the family) on the adolescent's individual development and peer relationships. Telephone interviews 25 years after the home interviews focused on the well-being of the now adult children and the elder parents, and adult child-elder parent relationships. Interviews with the elder parents focused on their lifelong marriage. Interviews with families of the adult adolescents focused on patterns through the generations. Central family systems variables are Connection (affection, trust) and Individuation (respect, autonomy) processes. A recent book, Creating Love and Respect in Families: from Generation to Generation, summarizes this work.

In addition, methodological questions concerning interaction process analyses and cross-cultural research have been addressed.

Macro-analytic, micro-analytic and projective measures have been created to measure multiple aspects of the family system. A primary theoretical focus has been on connection and individuation, support and acknowledgement.

The other half of Linda's work has been in Healing and Wellness, from family therapy to mindful psychotherapy. It has included work with women keeping their babies in prison, restorative communication, and the creation of a course for teaching family wellness.

Linda G. Bell is a Professor of Communication Studies and Sociology at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Professor Emerita of Psychology and Family Therapy at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. David C. Bell is a Professor of Sociology at IUPUI.