Dr. Barbara Fiese speaks at 6th annual Hunsberger Memorial Lecture

Last Friday afternoon, over 60 Laurier students attended the 6th annual Hunsberger Memorial Lecture held in Bricker Academic 101. Guest speaker Dr. Barbara Fiese delivered a developmental psychology lecture entitled “Family Routines and Rituals: Everyday Opportunities to Build Health and Wellbeing.” Fiese, discussed how basic family routines are linked to biological health, particularly in children: “Health really is a family affair” said Fiese.

Fiese has been studying family dynamics and its affects on health for over a decade. She conducts her research through interviews, questionnaires and by examining interactions among family members, particularly during mealtimes.

Fiese began her lecture by relating the pressures families face to be organized: “Families experience life as trying to balance all of life’s competing demands. We’re not a one size fits all kind of world.”

For Fiese, the solution is well-organized family routines to benefit the physical and mental health of the family.

Her lecture focused on medical, mealtime and sleep dynamics within families.

By examining medical adherence routines, Fiese studied how positive and negative family environments affect children with asthma, the most common childhood chronic illness. Fiese successfully predicted that families with less organizational strength had children who more frequently visited the emergency room.

Fiese next discussed the importance of family mealtimes: “I want to look at the quality of family mealtimes as a mediator to different [health] outcomes.”

As mealtimes typically last between 18-20 minutes, Fiese wanted to understand how the short time frame could be most beneficial to family members. She noted the importance of turning off all electronic distractions, especially the TV. The role of food marketing, according to Fiese, encourages children to strain family relationships leading to “mealtimes [becoming] a battleground.”

In discussing her last focus, sleep, Fiese’s observations revealed how the emotional states of families have a profound impact on health: “Family climate disruption is just as much as an indicator [of poor health] as biological disruption.

Fiese ended her lecture by stressing the importance of positive family dynamics in promoting health: “Positive forms of communication are associated with better lung function, less anxiety and a better quality of life for kids.”

For Fiese, the bottom line to healthy living is to: “Eat with your family, get a good night sleep and sometimes, it’s important to take a deep breath.”

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