It’s fascinating what we perceive as a happy family

One weekday afternoon recently I was chatting to Jane and Harley. Somehow we got onto the topic of when growing up and at school what was perceived as a happy family/home. I found their individual answers so intriguing it got me wondering.

I decided to ask a few people this question….

‘Think about what you saw as a kid that you thought looked like they must be happy family’

The main thing that stood out to you.

It’s fascinating what children and young adults perceive as a happy family/home when growing up and going to school.

I did a bit of a search for what the experts define as a happy family. I wasn’t short of varied explanations. Now bear with me here, I felt we needed to look at a researched definition of a happy family. Breeze over this if it is all too heavy for you down to my answers to my question, the ‘non expert’ non vigorous research model version and definitions of a happy family.

For those curious as I were as to what the experts say……

One ‘expert’ definition according to bringing up healthy kids website


Strong, happy families create a sense of well being within the family and in each family member. Wellbeing includes a person’s physical, mental, emotional and social health. Strong, happy families encourage and support each other to be optimistic, hopeful and to strive together to achieve individually and as a family. In strong, happy families everyone has the right to feel safe, comfortable, happy and loved. Parents have a responsibility to provide an appropriate role model for their children and a nurturing environment in which they can thrive.

The Family Strengths Research Project now which I believe is 20 years old but a work in constant progress,


The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is a Melbourne-based Australian Government statutory agency established in 1980 under the Family Law Act 1975. AIFS has a proud record of high-quality, responsive and impartial research into the wellbeing of Australian families.)

identified eight strengths that strong, happy families in Australia have in common. These are:


Strong, happy families value open, two-way communication. This means parents and children make sure everyone is listening to each other as well as having the chance to talk. Strong, happy families create opportunities for the whole family to participate in discussions about everyday matters as well as opportunities to discuss issues and problems. 


Togetherness is creating a “glue” to help families develop a sense of belonging. Togetherness is sharing similar values, beliefs and morals. Children are seen as important members of the family who have a strong sense of belonging to the family. The strong, happy family sticks together through life’s journey.

Sharing Activities: 

Strong, happy families share and do things together. This can include sports, playing games, reading stories, spending time together, sharing interests and holidays. As children get older more creative thinking is needed to keep them involved in family activities. Suggestions include inviting older children’s friends to join in family activities and creating a “young people friendly” house where children’s friends are actively encouraged to “hang out”.


Affection is shown through a genuine sharing of feelings through hugs, cuddles and kisses. Strong, happy families tell each other how they feel, consider each other’s feelings and show care, concern, thoughtfulness and interest in each other.


Each member of a strong, happy family knows that family members will always be there to look out for them and take an interest in them. In a strong, happy family it is OK to ask for help and support. 


Members of strong, happy families show respect and appreciation of each other’s differences. Competition is discouraged and family members acknowledge and value each others’ uniqueness, respect other points of view, forgive each other and allow each other their own space.


Strong, happy families are dedicated and loyal to each other and the family as a whole. Strong, happy families feel safe and secure with each other, trust each other and keep promises.


Strong, happy families have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and have a positive attitude towards any challenges that arise. Strong, happy families talk things through, keep each other’s hopes up, and pull together in a crisis, learning as a family as they go.

In strong, happy families the relationships between the adults and children are nurturing and supportive, kind and fair, in which children have a strong sense of importance and belonging. says the same thing as a result of the family research study

Excerpt from 2012, the Australian Government, Australian institute of family studies (AIFS)
The factors that maximise the chances that a family will successfully navigate adverse events are essentially those related to family resilience; that is, their belief systems, organisational patterns, and communication/problem-solving capacities, among others. Strong families are able to adapt to changing circumstances and have a positive attitude towards the challenges of family life. They deal with these challenges by communicating effectively (talking things through with each other and supporting each other in times of need), seeking outside support (when it is beyond the family’s capability to deal with the situation), and “pulling together” (to form a united front and find solutions). On the reverse side, the areas that sap the strength of families and contribute to difficulties in negotiating life events continue to be those such as family violence, child abuse, mental health issues and substance misuse.

Below is a list of the AIFS publications if you are a keen reader and want to read more about their work.

Anne Hollonds, the former head of Relationships Australia New South Wales and the Benevolent Society and whom is the current Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies said in a Herald Sun interview 29th June 2016, ‘happy families are a myth’.

‘We need to be careful around that notion of happy families … There are moments of happiness and moments of sadness and everything in between’.

Anne Hollonds

I could go on about the definition of a family but… us we get it, they are varied and complex.

Ok so I think I’ve covered what the experts say. I didn’t want to get to bogged down in the research stuff but thought it worth a mention seeming though we are talking about what is supposed to constitute a happy family/home.

Now on to my simple research more so based on curiosity for myself about peoples perception on the topic of question after my conversation with my kids. I loved hearing everyone’s responses. The answers came from people ranging from 8 to almost 60. This is what some of those people thought when growing up, what made them think was a sign of a happy family/home . It’s nowhere near ‘expert’ as a government funded research but I believe it’s more fun to read than the research papers!

* At school I thought families that had clean and tidy homes and whose car boots must have come from happy homes. The parents had time to keep the home and car boot neat and tidy. I would only open the boot up enough to get my school bag out because I didn’t want people to see how untidy our boot was. I was embarrassed. Now I’m older I realise it’s not necessarily right but as a kid that’s what I thought. * this person now has one of the untidiest cars and boots I’ve even seen but is very happy I note.

* if they had a neat and tidy house ( interestingly the 2 responses about a tidy home came from females. A side note: I have just been reading the ‘Wife Drought’ by Annabel Crabb, an interesting read .The Wife Drought shares intriguing research about the attitudes pulsing beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.)

* kids who came to school with home made lunches. Sandwiches with salad and cold meats and lots of good food in their lunch boxes made by their mums.

* beautifully packed lunches with some homemade baked cookies

* families where parents weren’t divorced

* kids who got picked up from school were from happy homes

* families that had lots of family coming and going. It seemed a happy place. Family celebration of traditions.

*families that went on family holidays

* non aggressive children

* families that had family outings

* families where the parents were involved with their kids

* well presented children, good morals and polite

* the mums were nice to other kids

* kids that had neat stationary

* if the kid seemed happy he must come from a happy family home

* homes where the mum and dad looked relaxed sitting in the lounge room together just chatting to each other.

* if the family ate dinner all together

* homes where they had dinner together each night and chatted about the day

* if the dad was home

* if the family played board games together

* a happy home had pictures of people on the wall that was loved by the family

* living in a home all being together and having their own beds

* a home with lots of laughter

* mum sharing her chicken noodle soup with me

To be honest I could probably slot these answers under the headings above from the AIFS research. They are examples of things such as support, affection, communication, sharing activities, affection, acceptance, commitment, resilience and togetherness.

It’s interesting how in my quick asks around ‘study’ people instinctively knew what constituted a happy family to some degree.

I think the clean neat home and family car was viewed as calm and ‘order’. A loving mother. Signs of a loving mother shone through. This begs another question. What constitutes a good mother and good father in the eyes of school children. I think if we looked into this further, gender roles within families which I mentioned Annabel Crabb touches on in her book ‘The Wife Drought’ , we’d see they are ingrained in our social network and social DNA.

Below is a tip of the iceberg of expert and non expert articles to be found on the matter of parenting.

Parents playing a critical role in a happy family home lead me searching articles on what is a good mum, what is a good dad question and started me down another rabbit hole so I will stop at this one

Who would of thought a Friday afternoon chat with my daughter and her boyfriend could spark looking into what constitutes a happy family and the plethora of information that can be found on it. The social scientist are onto it! Knock your self out googling about it. Or better still just ask your own kids. They are the best social scientists on your family. I found it fascinating asking my kids.

I’d love to hear your answer to my question…..‘Think about what you saw as a kid that you thought looked like they must be happy family’

The main thing that stood out to you. Tell me in the comment section below. I am so so keen to know.

Love Lucy x

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