Family Routines and Rituals: A Context for Development in the Lives of Young Children

Spagnola, Mary PhD; Fiese, Barbara H. PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.IYC.0000290352.32170.5a
ISEI Article

Naturally occurring family routines and meaningful rituals provide both a predictable structure that guides behavior and an emotional climate that supports early development. In this article, we highlight recent evidence that suggests that variations in the practice of family routines and the meaning connected to family rituals are associated with variations in socioemotional, language, academic, and social skill development. We offer definitions of routines and rituals and contrast their different elements. We briefly review how variations in routines have been found to be associated with variations in language development, academic achievement, and social skill development. We examine how variations in the emotional investment in family rituals are associated with variations in family relationship satisfaction. We place our review in the framework of the transactional model whereby characteristics of the child and parent affect each other in the creation and sustainability of routines over time. Potential mechanisms of effect (parental efficacy, behavior monitoring, family relationship coherence) are discussed. We conclude with a brief description of methods of assessment and intervention suitable for practitioners working with families of young children.

Department of Psychology and Center for Health and Behavior, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.

Corresponding Author: Barbara H. Fiese, PhD, Center for Health and Behavior, 430 Huntington Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244 (

Preparation of this manuscript was supported, in part, by grants from the Administration for Children and Families Head Start Graduate Student Research Scholar grant and the National Institute of Mental Health (R01-MH51771).

©2007Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.