What Is Familial Love?

Learn how to create and sustain this type of love.

Young woman taking selfie with family and friends

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What Is Family Love?

The first love you ever know often comes from your mother and your immediate family members. This unconditional love seeks nothing in return. Those loving times you remember cuddling with your parents, playing ball with your brother in the backyard, or getting ice cream down the street with your grandmother aren’t just cherished memories.

Family love psychologically grounds you and provides you a framework for future relationships. It enables you to form secure attachments. Securely attached children feel safe and cared for. If you had secure bonds, your parents were likely responsive and fulfilled your needs when you were young.

Having positive attachments and feeling cared for by your loved ones leads to higher social functioning later on. A child with secure attachments also can more easily form healthy ties with others when they grow up and throughout their future.

Benefits of Family Love

The advantages mentioned above regarding the fostering of secure attachments and higher social functioning aren’t the only ones accrued by stable family relationships. When you feel safe, protected, and cared for during those crucial early years, you have a good framework for the world. The future outlook seems bright.

Living in a warm environment that is surrounded by family love generates other benefits including:

  • You gain confidence and a high sense of self-esteem.
  • You learn conflict resolution skills.
  • You learn about communication and social interactions.
  • You have good physical health (thanks to home-cooked healthy meals, regular exercise and play, and early bedtimes).
  • You become more resilient and adaptable as you and your family surmount challenges.
  • You feel like you have support when you need it.
  • You feel a sense of stability and predictability based on routine.
  • You don’t have to do anything to earn family love. You have it unconditionally—just for being born.
  • Your childhood experiences and growth are seen in a positive light.
  • You also decrease the possibility that you’ll have mental health challenges in the future.

Recent Research

A 2019 study showed that adults with higher levels of positive childhood experiences had lower odds of depression and/or poor mental health and greater adult-reported social and emotional support.

Feeling loved by our families and having great childhood experiences when you’re young is important. The study also showed that enhancing positive childhood experiences may reduce adult mental health problems even when adverse childhood events happened.

Estrangement From Family Members

Perhaps you didn’t have an idyllic childhood and your parents weren’t good role models. You might have chosen to distance yourself from them by choice. Or in later years, you preferred to strike out in a different direction than the one you were expected to follow.

Thus, rather than have tension and discomfort, you opted not to spend time with family.

About 27% of Americans are estranged from a family member. That’s according to a survey by the Cornell Family Reconciliation Project conducted for the book, Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them, by Cornell University sociologist Karl Pillemer.

What If Effects of the Pandemic Negatively Impacted Your Family?

During COVID-19, family dynamics often shifted. As a result of spending more time together, let’s face it. Many of us became frustrated with each other. Some relationships frayed. Unable to escape to movies or to meet friends, you might have even grown resentful of your brother playing his music too loud or your cousin eating your favorite cereal on a daily basis.

Though you are related to them by genetics, maybe you’ve grown tired of being cooped up with them. With added stressors and demands placed upon you, you might feel you didn’t get the understanding or assistance you needed.

Consequently, you may feel depleted and, to be frank, less than enamored with these people. Many confess they are more alienated from family members now than before the pandemic, although the whole family still remains under the same roof or in the same apartment building.

Recent research from Penn State showed because family members were stuck together for more time than they were used to, people's overall well-being began to suffer.

Others of us lived and worked across the country from our family. We couldn’t travel to visit them or perhaps we couldn’t give much time to loved ones. Maybe we felt guilty. Maybe we were relieved.

Disagreements over politics, wearing masks, and getting the vaccine strained family relationships. Perhaps you feel there won’t be a return to the way things were before the pandemic and that’s okay.

Coping

You can cope with estranged relationships and make peace with them through family therapy or individual therapy.

If you didn’t have a wonderful family experience growing up or don’t have one now, you still have agency in creating another kind of family. Family love can be found whether it’s based on bloodline relationships or not.

Creating Family Love With Friends

Family love can be built with a group outside of your family, such as your friendship circle. Rest assured you don’t have to be extremely close to your parents or siblings or children to have familial love.

The relationships you forge with neighbors, friends from work, or childhood friends who might be back in your life can serve extremely well as your family. Perhaps you’re close to college friends or church friends. You can establish your own close ties with people you choose to be with.

For many people, their close friends aren’t just "like family," they are family. The important thing is to have close, meaningful relationships as they sustain us.

According to a scientific review of about 150 studies that included 300,000 participants, people with strong social ties have a 50% better chance of survival than those with weaker ties. This is regardless of age, sex, or health status.

While we can maintain ties through texting or quick phone calls to just check in, you might want to devote more attention to these important relationships in your life. We need to remember that having these close relationships is a significant aspect of good health.

Tips for Sustaining Family Relationships

Let’s focus on easy ways to maintain these bonds; they matter deeply. Here are additional ways to nurture family love and significant relationships:

  • Make spending time with loved ones a priority.
  • Play games online regularly.
  • Practice better listening skills.
  • Write letters and send via snail mail.
  • Set up a regular weekend hour to chat at length.
  • Travel to your loved one’s home.
  • Eat meals together.
  • Cook together in person or virtually.
  • Set up a weekly happy hour.
  • Join an exercise or weight lifting class together.
  • Join a recreational sports team together.
  • Volunteer together for a charity you both admire.
  • Be sensitive and caring.
  • Tell your loved ones you love them.
  • Express your gratitude to them, which not only will make them happy but makes you happier.
  • Use non-verbal expressions like eye contact, smiles, and affectionate embraces.

Hugs are important as we need physical touch as human beings. In fact, during a warm and welcome hug, the hormone oxytocin is released, which slows down our heart rate, reduces stress, and lowers anxiety. In addition, the brain also releases endorphins that flood us with feelings of pleasure and happiness.

There are many benefits of belonging to a supportive family network.  It’s an integral part of physical and mental well-being. Begin to focus your time and attention on those you love. Soon you’ll be creating fun times and happy memories.

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3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bethell C, Jones J, Gombojav N, Linkenbach J, Sege R. Positive Childhood Experiences and Adult Mental and Relational Health in a Statewide Sample: Associations Across Adverse Childhood Experiences LevelsJAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(11):e193007. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.3007

  2. Feinberg ME, Mogle, JA, Lee JK, Tornello SL, Hostetler ML, Cifelli JA, Bai S, Hotez E. Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Parent, Child, and Family Functioning. Fam. Proc. 2021. 

  3. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine. 2010.