How Does Family Shape Identity?

How Does Family Shape Identity?

 The place where you were born. Your genes. Who do you know. Your community. Your friends and family members. Everything that you experienced. Everything that you have. All of these are factors that create who you are. And, if you take a look closely at the above-mentioned factors, you will find that a family plays a key role in shaping a person’s identity. So, let’s find out how.

How does Family Shape/Influence Identity?

Family Relationships

Family RelationshipsAn individual’s identity is usually built from interrelations and a child’s first relationships are with his family members. According to sociologists, family interactions can either build up or destroy a person’s self-confidence, which is crucial in shaping the latter’s identity. The regular interaction or socializing between siblings, for example, is an illustration of how relationships play a central role in building a person’s identity. As you interact with intimate members of your family, you identify closely with them. In other words, your family members become the defining characteristics of your identity. In addition, family activities like community service, camping and many more also play a role in instilling skills and values that help in building self-confidence, which in turn shapes a person’s self-identity.


On the contrary, people who have been adopted, who’ve been raised in “broken” families or who’ve had “absent” parents are more likely to grow with a “bruised” self-esteem and thus can doubt or question their identities. In simple words, those who are not raised in “normal” family situations often struggle to deal with who they are, who others think they are, where they come from and where they belong to.


CultureThere’s no denying that the cultural background of a family, including its ethnicity, cultural norms and practiced traditions, can strongly influence a person’s life and identity. According to Taylor, “Without  a clear cultural identity, there  might be no clear,  available reference group and thus no comparative mechanism by which an individual can even construct a coherent sense of personal identity and by extension experience positive self-esteem and well-being.” Let us consider the research work of McAdams, for example. The latter found out that, if examined and analyzed thoroughly, the personal identities of certain Americans were shaped and influenced by cultural and social forces; in simple terms, their sense of life or self-identity was constructed from their cultural family influences.

Like McAdams, there are several behaviorists who’ve studied human behavior to demonstrate that personal identity can be strongly influenced and shaped by cultural forces. For instance, the culinary traditions of a family have the power to influence the lifestyle of a person. It might sound far-fetched, but studies have shown that ethnically distinctive meals cooked in a family can influence a person’s choice of lifestyle and hence shapes his/her personal identity.

Social Class Background

Social Class“Social class has worked for years. Born into the right family, go to the right schools, even if you’re not super bright to start with, you’ll turn out bright. You go to the right university, you get the right job, you have the right connections, you’ll make it to the top. Job done, very efficient.”

– From Katie Hopkins

I hope you are not new to the theory of social class inequalities. If you are, well, you must read this article.

Back to the topic, when a child is born into a parent’s social class, the child eventually identifies with the class of his family members. It gives him a sense of “collective identity.” It is obvious that an individual’s identity is constructed based on his family’s social class background as the family’s economic circumstances will eventually affect the person’s upbringing, lifestyle and schooling.

Therefore, when people with similar economic backgrounds stick together, they share the same social class identity. For instance, people from the upper class who participate in the same high-end culture hold the same upper class identity. And, the same goes for the remaining social class identities.