Improving Psychological Well-Being of Young Adults by Conducting Family History Research at a Religious University


  • Barry M. Lunt
  • Kelly R. Summers
  • David A. Wood



Prior research suggests that knowledge of one’s family is correlated with, but does not produce, psychological well-being. We test this conjecture, by examining whether participating in family history research (i.e., genealogical research) is associated with psychological well-being above and beyond the effects of knowledge of one’s family, documented in prior research. To test this, we examine whether students enrolled in a university level family history course, improve in family identification, selfesteem, anxiety, resilience, and locus of control more than a control sample. For students enrolled in the family history course, we find an increase in family identification, which in turn leads to improvements in each of these areas of psychological wellbeing.
Direct effects of being in the family history course show improvements in selfesteem of 8% and reductions in anxiety of 20%. In follow-up tests we examine which aspects of genealogical research are associated with measures of psychological wellbeing and find that researching genealogical records (e.g.,  examining census records) is associated with greater self-esteem and reduced anxiety but that posting memories about families and expanding one’s family tree do not have the same relation with measures of psychological well-being.


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