Who are you, in terms of identify, in your family?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is probably one of the most profound questions that can be asked.  Individuals will have different answers to this question.  At the most basic of levels, the role of the family in forming individual identity is a powerful one.  Families will play a significant role in helping form who we are and in what we believe.  At the same time, who an individual is in their family can be defined in conjunction with familial expectations, as well as providing a departing point where divergence is evident.  Sometimes, the need for embracing "affiliation," as Erikson would note, and the need to break from it help families exert a role on identity and the formation of who a person is in their family.  I don't think that there will be a direct answer to the question.  People must examine who they are and how their family impacts them and their identities.  This is where I think that individuals find out who they are in the families, as it is a question that forces the individual to examine themselves both in their families and outside of it.

All people, to a great extent, have to endure this.  It is interesting to see how individuals in the public realm have to endure this in the most public of manners.  For example, Republican Presidential Mitt Romney is enduring this, amongst other things, in such a public manner.  The controversy about the release or withholding of his tax returns have helped to bring out a contrast with his father, who divulged in his run for President multiple years' worth of tax returns.  When asked at a recent debate if he would mirror his father's actions, the son replied with a terse:  "I might."  It was at this moment where one could see that Mitt Romney struggled with his identity in light of his family.  Who he was, his identity, was something that was contrasted with his father's.  At that instant, who he was in his family was on display for all to see, something that necessitated reflection.  In analysis, one can see that the basic question of who we are in light of our families is something that strikes at all of us, including the younger Romney:

If George Romney shot from the hip, his son, before he shoots at all, carefully studies the target, lines up the barrel just right, and might even fire a few practice rounds. Mitt Romney, who saw the shortcomings of his father’s approach, has often been more inclined to identify the consequence he wants, then figure out how to get there.

Even in the domain of Republican politics, one can see how our families play a large and loaded role in who we are and what our identity is.


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