Family reunions: Not just for grandparents

Rarely do people explicitly partake in these events for more typical vacation purposes (such as relaxation), the researchers found. Rather, they do so to maintain and remember family history, to engage in activities as a group, and to grow closer to one’s spouse and children or familiarize those children with their extended family. These people see reunions “as an effective means of creating an ‘altogether atmosphere,’” of “fostering the feeling of being close to each other,” and of experiencing “love and belonging”—a draw that the researchers suspect grows more intense the more geographically scattered families become.

Additionally, at a time when nearly half of Americans report feeling lonely at least sometimes, the multigenerational connections forged by family reunions can contribute to familial cohesion. Kluin and Lehto concluded that Americans are especially drawn to family reunions in this day and age, perhaps in part because of an “increasing emphasis on the basic values of family togetherness in contemporary society.”

Americans are drawn to reunions even if, at times, the gatherings can be stressful. “People in general realize that family trips are rarely easy—they rarely go as planned,” says Jason Dorsey, a consultant who researches Millennials and serves as president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a consulting firm whose research seeks to dissolve the siloes separating different age groups. Yet, Dorsey continued, “they still decide to do it [a family reunion] again.” A family reunion is kind of like a workout: No matter how apprehensive a person feels going into it, or how beat she feels coming out, she continues to partake in the ritual because it’s so nourishing.