The Perceived Influence of Family Togetherness
on Junior High School Students

Jamie Ann Hernandez
The Master’s College


Current research suggests that family leisure has encouraged the involvement and interaction with children in a way that fulfills both parental and social discourse. The purpose of the study was to observe how pre-teens from the ages of 12 to 14 are impacted by the relationships they have with their family environments inside and outside of the home. The survey instrument observed the impact of family involvement on the maturation of pre-teens (12-14 years of age). The results reflected that families are incorporating planned activities on either a weekly or monthly basis and/or actively discussing family-related plans. In contrast, there was a significant lack of whole family participation. As shown through various current research and the results of this study, family togetherness and positive developmental influence are concepts that should be linked.


When time is spent in a setting embraced by the welcoming comfort of another person, a lasting impression on emotional, physical, and mental behaviors is constructed. In the development of a family relationship, the establishment of unity that allows the creation of individuality is essential to the quality of a young life. According to Susan M. Shaw of Waterloo University and Don Dawson of the University of Ottawa (2001), in regard to the creation of family unity, the character of children is developed by a “sense of family” that would “reflect the idea of the family as an island of security and togetherness in a somewhat hostile world, which may interfere with the family values and family cohesion” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 225). Throughout a number of studies conducted by Gottlieb, Whittaker and Garnarino “social support provides evidence that quality relationships can mediate the effects of crises and can promote positive mental health” (LeCroy & Winston, 1988, p. 138). Through the engagement of the family unit the emotional, physical, social, and mental performance of a child can be significantly influential in the betterment of society and quality of life.

The Difference Between Activities Planned by Mothers Versus Fathers

The difference between activities planned by mothers and fathers has a great amount to do with the maternal and paternal instincts each gender possesses. According to Serge Ginger, women are more likely to be more attentive to matters of time and scheduling and have greater success in the area of keeping things organized, whereas men are more prone to the facets of space and what will be accomplished in a more broad and long-term sense (Ginger, 2003, p. 140). Studies suggested that there is “a tendency for mothers to talk more about immediate concerns, such as children getting along, and for the fathers to focus more on long term concerns, such as family cohesion and maintaining closeness in the future” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 224). This observation was further supported as the types of activities that were planned by mothers were evaluated. “. . . the mothers, talked about health and fitness as one of the benefits of physically active leisure pursuits…also, the focus of the parents’ attention—was on the experiences and benefits for their children rather than for themselves” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 225). Mothers were found to keep up family togetherness through organization in the temporal sense, whereas men focused on bringing the family together with a more time extensive outlook. Shaw and Dawson’s study also concluded that fatherly tendencies reflected activities that would demonstrate “how to operate as a family, so that in life [family members] will know how a family’s supposed to operate” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 226). This further shows that because a male brain operates with a long-term perspective, fathers’ view of activities planned and the nature of those activities will be different than the activities planned by mothers.

The Relationship between Family Togetherness and Positive Adolescent Response

Gaining positive responses from adolescent children has been suggested to stimulate constructive growth in various areas of life. A recent study implied that families who engage in activities or daily conversation with their adolescent children in an encouraging manner had a much better opportunity to invoke a positive response (McNair & Johnson, 2009). According to Renae McNair and H. Durell Johnson of Pennsylvania State University, parents play an important role in the development of adolescent school attitudes by influencing how their adolescents view the importance of achievement (McNair & Johnson, 2009). Throughout their study they were able to correlate the significance between family cohesion and family togetherness. High levels of parental involvement increased the likelihood children will try to live up to their parent’s expectations as well as develop their own long-term academic expectations (Gonzalez- DeHass, Willems, & Doan Holbein, 2005; Schneider & Stevenson, 1999).  McNair and Johnson concluded that the connection between contexts (i.e., home and school) was associated with the proximal processes that influence adolescent development (McNair & Johnson, 2009). Throughout their study an inference of positive response from an adolescent in regard to family-based time stemmed from a constructive outlook derived from the parents’ perspective.

The Significance of the Frequency of Planned Family Activities

The amount of time families set aside to spend with each other plays a significant role in future behaviors both mentally and emotionally in the life of their children. LeCroy and Winston suggested, “studies of social support provide evidence that quality relationships can mediate the effects of crises and can promote positive mental health” (LeCroy & Winston, 1988, p. 138). According to researchers, “ a general hypothesis has been that more socially active parents have more successful children” (Buechel & Duncan, 1998, p. 106). Thus, better social networking produces a “stock of resources (social capital) that parents or their children may draw on if needed” (Buechel & Duncan, 1998, p. 106). To counterbalance this hypothesis, further study proved that, because of a mindset that is set to achieve success in the workforce while furthering the success of a child, more harm than success was a frequent derivative. “Several studies support the view that the degree of emotional involvement with parents is a predictor of problem behavior in adolescents” (LeCroy & Winston, 1988, p. 138). Taking the time to plan activities in which the whole family will be able to facilitate emotional, behavioral, and social needs is the prime medium for beneficial family leisure as well as social discourse. The frequency of family activities was significant in achieving a “strong sense of purpose that parents attached to family participation and their determination and commitment to [that] aspect of family life” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 223).

The Relationship Between Sports Activities and Parent/Child Interaction

Many families use sports as a way to not only keep physically active but also to engage in family leisure that promotes life skills and positive habits. Unique lessons can be taught, not necessarily by the games being played but by the way both mother and father contribute to overseeing and conducting the game. Studies of the differences in functions of the male and female brain have shown that, because of the dominant hemispheres that are used by each gender, “ [a] woman is more involved in verbal sharing and communication, while the man is more prepared for action and competition (Ginger, 2003, p. 140). Shaw and Dawson implied that a “theme related to family functioning, including the sub themes of family interaction and communication as well as family bonding and cohesion,” was demonstrated in sports (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 222). Through exemplifying how men and women should communicate with each other in order to inculcate a strong bond of family, the mode of planned sporting activities opens up an opportunity for the family unit to experience social, psychological, physical, and cognitive benefits.

The Significance of Participation in Planned Family Activities

Participation of the whole family in planned activities is crucial for the outcome of distinct family unity. Research has shown that “family systems are not chaotic and static, but are ordered and actively seek family goals” (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2003, p. 166). Activities that have been planned for the purpose of bringing the family together for comradeship as well as physical, emotional, and educational guidance are components for social and developmental training that are most beneficial when conducted in a cohesive framework. Family leisure activities appear to be most beneficial for the entire family system, much more than for couples alone” (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2003, p. 165). For profitable family leisure to occur, “goals are selected, support is generated among members, and tactical steps are calculated. Progress is monitored and corrections are made through [an] ongoing feedback loop” (Brockerick, 1993, p. 45). The purpose of whole family leisure is to improve “family interaction and cohesion . . . a vehicle that [will] encourage positive interaction between family members . . . and between parents and children” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 223). All must contribute for the production and continuous structuring of effective family entity.

The Relationship between Family Discussion and Communication Skills

Confident communication skills and thoughtful input are some of the outcomes that stem from positive interaction through family discussion. Zabriskie and McCormick indicated that “family leisure provides significant opportunities for interaction both between family members as well as between the family and its environment, which provides new input, energy, and challenge necessary for continued family system development” (2001, p. 167). By upholding the concept of learning how to converse and show attention to different age groups and genders through the various life stages of the family members, appropriate responses and clarity of thought develop. Research found that “parents do indeed have considerable influence on their sons and daughter” as they relate to situations that arise (Biddle, Bank, & Marlin, 1980, p. 138). Discussions that include the whole family concerning activities to share enjoyment, problems, and sharing of information establish life skills that will not only promote family leisure but will in turn result in satisfying family life.

The Effect Togetherness Has on the Family

In accordance with the above section devoted to family participation, family togetherness will not be fruitful if not all members are willing to devote time and keep an open mind about planned activities intended for the entire group. Although family members are entitled to their own opinion, “family roles and the lack of support by family members are seen to be a constraint that pulls people away from desired participation in their chosen hobby or serious leisure activity” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 219). According to a study conducted by Shaw and Dawson (2001) on the outcome of planned leisure events and the level of enjoyment connected with them, families indicated that the time spent together as a family was considered to be “a duty and responsibility . . . not intrinsically motivated but was goal oriented and directed toward particular extrinsic benefits . . . and it involved a lot of work” (Shaw & Dawson, 2001, p. 228). Contrary to the seemingly negative outlook, the overall judgment of the time spent together was positive. Another study indicated that “a family’s joint leisure involvement is positively related to family satisfaction, and family satisfaction is a primary indicator of the quality of family life” (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2003, p. 163).


Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study was to observe how pre-teens from the ages of 12 to 14 are impacted by the relationships they have with their family environments inside and outside of the home. The following research questions were used in the study:

1.   How are parents executing family time?
2.   What is the response of the pre-teen demographic in regard to substantial time spent with the whole family?

Method of Data Collection

The survey instrument used in this study was designed to measure the impact of family involvement on the maturation of pre-teens (12-14 years of age) through the way parents are executing family time and the response of the pre-teen demographic in regard to substantial time spent with the whole family. A personal data sheet requested demographic data in addition to responses to five survey questions. The survey instrument was distributed to 12-14 year old students enrolled at Santa Clarita Christian School, Santa Clarita, California. They received the survey instrument from their teacher, the teachers collected the survey instruments, and the survey instruments were returned to the researcher through the administrative assistant, Mrs. Corona Mayhugh.

Statistical Procedure

 STATPAK was employed to examine the data; the desired scale of measurement was nominal. The nominal scale was used because it is a measurement that “provides for categories and permits counting how many are in each category” (Joseph & Joseph, 1986, p. 54). The data were collected by a survey instrument composed of four questions describing the demographic data and five questions with responses based on a Yes or No scale. The One-Dimensional Chi-Square statistical test was utilized because it is “most often used with nominal data” (Joseph & Joseph, 1986, p. 182). A .05 level of significance was used to test the results of the study. Data retrieved from the demographic portion of the survey instrument were reported in statements and figures.


The subjects sampled for this study were junior high students ranging from the ages of 12 to14 years old attending Santa Clarita Christian School, spring semester 2009. One hundred fifty-three copies of the survey instrument were distributed; one hundred fifty-three were returned and eighty-two were used in this study. The data collected from the eighty-two subjects are discussed in subsequent sections, commencing with the reporting of the demographic findings. The survey instrument indicated that 18.29 percent of the students were in 6th grade, 48.78 percent were in 7th grade, while 32.93 percent were in 8th grade. It indicated that 37.8 percent of the students were 12 years old, 43.9 percent were 13 years old, while 18.3 percent were 14 years old. The survey indicated that 15.85 percent of the students’ activities were planned by their fathers, 18.29 percent of the students’ activities were planned by their mothers, while 64.84 percent of the students’ activities were planned by the family as a whole. Lastly, 84.15 percent of the students said that they would like to spend more time with their whole family, while 15.85 percent of the students said they would not like to spend more time with their whole family. Table 1 summarizes the responses of the survey instrument.

Research Question One

How are parents executing family time? Questions 5, 6, and, 8 of the survey located in Appendix A addressed this research question.

The results of survey questions 5 and 6 inferred that the respondents frequently experience positive outcomes, experiencing family togetherness whether the activities are chosen and discussed by the family or whether they are pre-planned events.

Table 1 Summary of Responses to Survey Questions

Survey Question

Scale Number

Total Responses

Computed Chi-Square Value

Tabled Chi-Square Value



No Response




































The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated value was at the .05 significance level and suggested that parents are taking the time to plan and engage in activities with their children on a weekly or monthly basis. Also, the results indicated that planned family-based activities include sporting events. Likewise, the respondents indicated that the planning of family-based activities was discussed as a family unit.

The findings for question five align with LeCroy & Winston (1988) whose study suggested that quality relationships promote positive mental health. Buechel & Duncan (1998) implied that when parents are more socially active in the lives of their children, a better chance for success may occur and that children will feel more inclined to draw on parental resources if necessary.

The findings for question six align with Shaw & Dawson (2001) whose studies proposed that families who function together through participation in such events as sports were more inclined to have better quality communication as well as family cohesion. Within the category of sporting events, Ginger (2003) noted that the female brain communicates on a verbal level while the male brain communicates better when competition and the preparation for action is involved, implying that when both genders are involved a more effective communication level is produced.

The findings for question eight align with the research conducted by Zabriskie & McCormick (2003) showing that the influence of practiced communication skills throughout the family encourages new input, energy, and the exemplification of how to properly interact with others. Biddle, Bank & Marlin (1980) perceived that there was a relationship between family discussion and family influence on the maturation of a pre-teen and their communication ability.

Research Question Two 

What is the response of the pre-teen demographic in regard to substantial time spent with the whole family? Questions 7 and 9 of the survey addressed this research question.

The results of the analysis revealed that the calculated valueof question 7 was notat the .05 significance level and suggested that there is a lack of participation amongst the family as a whole. The Chi-square analysis also revealed that the calculated value of question 9 was at the .05 significance level and suggested that planned time meant to be spent as a whole family was time that was anticipated.

The findings for question 7 do not align with the current research of families who participate in planned activities. Zabriskie & McCormick (2003) suggested that when families seek to set goals together and they strive to reach the goals, they grow together as a family unit. Shaw & Dawson (2001) also suggested that positive interaction between all members of the family would encourage the engagement and progress of both family interaction and cohesion. Broderick (1993) further suggested that, as goals are set among the family unit, a support system could provide for successful whole family interaction.

The findings for question 9 contrasted with the findings from the study conducted by Shaw & Dawson (2001), which suggested that family leisure was not inherently motivated and was considered to be the bearer of more work than enjoyment. In affirmative correlation with the results of this study, the opposing view of Zabriskie & McCormick (2003) implied joint leisure involvement to be the prime indicator of family satisfaction.


The resulting statistical analysis displayed considerable evidence that the role of family togetherness in the life of a pre-teen indicated that they enjoy spending time with their family and would like to spend more time in a family-centered environment. They frequently experienced positive outcomes whether the activities were chosen and discussed by the family or whether they were pre-planned events. There was a lack of participation amongst the family as a whole, and planned time meant to be spent as a whole family was time that was anticipated.


The following conclusions appear warranted:

  1. Families are executing family time in manners that are frequent and effective.

  2. The response of pre-teens in regard to substantial time spent with the whole family is negatively reflected through whole family participation and positively reflected through anticipating spending time together as a family.

The findings of this study yielded some interesting results. The majority of respondents indicated that they enjoy spending time with their family and would also like to spend more time in a family-centered environment. The findings of this study along with various research sources imply that family togetherness and positive developmental influence are areas that should be linked. Family togetherness, as shown throughout the results provided by the study, enveloped the significant role in the way a pre-teen’s pattern of thinking is being directed through the execution of family time by way of parental involvement.

Whether or not pre-teens enjoy the activities that are being planned and/or discussed, engagement by parents as well as siblings apart of the family unit may evoke constructive or detrimental repercussions depending on the way the time is used. It can be concluded that the influence of family togetherness on pre-teen junior high students has the potential to affect societal behaviors.

Limitations of the Study

Several limitations to this study existed. Only junior high students enrolled in Santa Clarita Christian School were surveyed. This study was limited to students in the 12 through 14-year-old age bracket. Also, the study was only conducted during the spring 2009 semester. Although the findings for this study pertain mainly to the individual Santa Clarita Christian School, a general trend may be observed and conclusions drawn.

Recommendations for Further Study

This study provided some information regarding the impact of family involvement on the maturation of pre-teens (12-14 years of age). Additional questions pertaining to the impact of family involvement on the maturation of pre-teens (12-14 years of age) warrant further investigation; thus, the following recommendations for further research and study are offered:

  1. This study should be replicated, using a different population to observe the impact on family involvement on the maturation of pre-teens (12-14 years of age).

  2. This study should be conducted to determine whether or not the impact of family involvement has a more significant influence on the maturation of a high school age student (15-18 years of age) as opposed to a pre-teen (12-14 years of age).          

  3. The effects of frequently attended after school or extra-curricular organized programs as opposed to parental involvement should be studied.



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Broderick, C. B. (1993). Understanding family process: Basics of family systems theory. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage.
Buchel, F., & Duncan, G. J. (1998). Do parents' social activities promote children's school attainments? Evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(1), 95-108. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from Research Library Core database. (Document ID: 27400997).
Ginger, S. (2003, July). Female brains vs. male brains. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 8(2), 139. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R., Willems, P. P., & Doan Holbein, M. F. (2005). Examining the
         relationship between parental involvement and student motivation. Educational
         Psychology Review, 17, 99-123.
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LeCroy, C., & Winston, M. (1988). Parent-adolescent intimacy: Impact on adolescent functioning. Adolescence. 23,138.
McNair, R., & Johnson, H. (2009, March). Perceived school and home characteristics as predictors of school importance and academic performance in a diverse adolescent sample. North American Journal of Psychology, 11(1), 63-84. Retrieved April 2, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Shaw, S., & Dawson, D. (2001, October). Purposive leisure: Examining parental discourses on family activities. Leisure Sciences, 23(4), 217-231. Retrieved March 4, 2009, doi:10.1080/01490400152809098.
Schneider, B., & Stevenson, D. (1999). The Ambitious generation. Educational Leadership, 57(4). Retrieved March 16, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.
Zabriskie, R., & McCormick, B. (2001). The influences of family leisure patterns on perceptions of family functioning. Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 50(3), 66-74.
Zabriskie, R., & McCormick, B. (2003, 2003 2nd Quarter). Parent and child perspectives of family leisure involvement and satisfaction with family life. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(2), 163. Retrieved February 18, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database.

Appendix A


This study is to observe how junior high students spend time with their families. Please circle or fill in the most accurate response to each question.


  1. I am in              6th            7th            8th            grade.
  1. I am                 12            13            14             years old.
  1. Family activities are planned by

            ____ My Father             ____ My Mother            ____             Everyone in the family

  1. Would you like to spend more time with your whole family?

YES                 NO

  1. Do your parents plan activities for the whole family weekly or monthly?

YES                 NO

  1. Are the activities that are planned sporting events?

YES                 NO

  1. Do all members of your family participate in planned activities?

YES                 NO

  1. Are activities discussed as a family?

YES                 NO

  1. Are the times spent with your whole family times that you look forward to?

YES                 NO


Thank you for your time and honesty!


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