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Health and Families

The Impact Of Marriage And Children On Adults' Health Behaviors , The Impact Of Family On Children's Health BehaviorsConclusion

A growing body of research has shown that family plays an important role, if not the most important role (Doherty 1993), in shaping our health attitudes and behaviors. This is important because positive health behaviors have been shown to significantly affect physical and mental health (Grzywacz and Marks 1999).

Prior to understanding the role the family plays in the adoption of health attitudes and beliefs, it is important to identify what health is. The World Health Organization (1986) defines health as

. . . the extent to which an individual or group is able, on the one hand, to realise aspirations and satisfy needs; and, on the other hand, to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living; it is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. (p. 73)

The family is the basic social context in which health behaviors are learned and performed (Ford-Gilboe 1997). Research in several different countries has found that families directly or indirectly influence one's mental health, physical health, drug use (including cigarettes and alcohol), diet, exercise (including participation in sports), dental hygiene habits, and sexual risk-taking behavior. This influence lasts a lifetime.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & Parenthood