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Ethnographic Study of a Family

Social Work 3510
October 19th, 2013
Samantha Pedri

Samantha Pedri 1

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When we discuss the dimensions of our families, the structure, or the values and beliefs
we find that there are many commonalities and yet there are so many strong differences. This
varies based on the origin, the religion, the values, and so on. Basically the culture that we
surround ourselves around as a whole with our families is what builds values, beliefs, or a way of
life. Each family has a different origin and as people marry it mixes more than just ethnicities
creating either a stronger or wider range of culture.
Defining Family:
When we take a look at defining family, we see multiple definitions that are subjective to
change based on who you ask, but have one common idea. According to Webster dictionary,
family is a group of individuals living under one roof, and also under one head. Also given is a
group of persons of common ancestry. Most people view a family as the basic unit in society
traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children, (Merriam-Webster, 2013). Initial
response when we think of family, of course the picture painted is a mother, father, and children
with extended family such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. There are nuclear families, single
parent families, cross generational families, etc. There is much more than just the structure
based off of who is included in the family. It also is the social, biophysical, and psychological
perspectives that build a family, the culture, origin, what they believe in, and also the values they
hold generationally.
My family:

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My family in the home consists of myself, my younger brother, and my mother and
father. My extended family consists of my mothers parents, her two sisters and spouses with
kids, my fathers mother, his two sisters, one brother, their spouses and their kids. There are four
generations that exist on each side of the family starting with my grandparents, and then going to
their great grandchildren. My family is very close to each other. My mothers side is not as close
as my fathers side, but we still do things that I would consider us close nit. We celebrate
holidays like Christmas and birthdays and also special events like graduations and baptisms.
Coping and Crisis:
My fathers parents were both diagnosed with cancer within the past five years, which
unfortunately we lost my grandfather too, but with my grandmother still in our lives we have
learned something so valuable. Although the loss of him was terrible and very painful, the time
we spend together now as a family is very important. We value every second we have while we
have it. When you see the strength and support we have it is hard not to be so involved with a
family so amazing. It is where I saw a lot of the values and beliefs my parents brought up
teaching my brother and I.
This was a huge struggle for my family to overcome and yet we overcame it. We came
together effortlessly realizing the importance of family, especially the importance of the oldest
generation. Most of my coping skills came from my fathers side seeing that we have
experienced something like this that allowed us to formulate coping skills to something this
serious. This is something that has brought my fathers side of the family together so easily.
Typically, the reaction you get from my family in response to something so tragic varies, so the
coping skills may be expected. The men in the family are the strong ones, it is okay for them to

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be upset but they hardly show it. The women find it harder to hold back emotions, but express
them allowing the discussion of feelings to be a great way to cope. Coping skills need to be
handled maturely in my family. My father holds himself together very well, my mother not as
much, but myself and my brother are much more emotional, which I feel comes from my
mothers side. Time, is something that is stressed in my household. Time, will heal
everything. That is the number one way of handling things in my family, understanding that in
time, things will get better.
Origin and History:
My Mother is half Italian, half German, and a little bit of French, which comes from her
mother, who is mostly German with a little bit of French, and her father who is one hundred
percent Italian. My father is fifty percent Italian and fifty percent German, which stems from his
father who is one hundred percent Italian and his mother who is one hundred percent German.
With as much accuracy as I can get, this makes me just about half German and half Italian with a
little bit of French.
My mothers parents were born and raised in Michigan, and started a family in Roseville,
Michigan where my mother was raised. My fathers parents were both born in the south east in
virgin where their families both were located at. Most of my Grandmothers family moved to
Michigan where only a few family members from my grandfather came up, the rest stayed in the
Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia areas. My Fathers parents moved to East Detroit raised a
family then moved to Chesterfield. My family lives in the South Eastern part of Michigan mostly
in the Macomb/St. Clair area with the exception that my extended family is in the southeastern
part of the states.

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As far as health, there is a history of Heart Disease, Bipolar disorder, and breast cancer on
my fathers side of the family, and Alzheimer Disease on my mothers side of the family. As of
right now it has not been something that has crossed my grandparents generation onto my
parents generation.
As previously stated I come from a German and Italian family. My fathers parents never
were really involved in any big family events when they moved to Michigan because they had
little family here. They had their own family and raised them as any typical Americans would do.
They did not speak Italian or German, and since my grandmother cooked they had mostly
German or American dinners. They did not have the big typical Italian parties with a lot of Italian
foods other than big Christian holidays. With my mothers side, they were always in Michigan
but they had more culture in their roots. My grandfather always cooked big Italian meals and at
holidays that is all we did was eat. Holidays were really focused on Italian food, and having the
entire family there, all sitting at one big table if we could fit. My grandfather on my mothers
side has an amazing Italian family that is stubborn, they are never wrong, and yet they remind
you every time they see you how beautiful you are inside and out. They take the time to
compliment beauty when they see it.
Traditions that my family took on over generations is going to the east coast to visit my
extended family each year for a family reunion. It is not really a cultural factor, but we all get
together and make a big dinner every night, all helping, and all of us eating together. We also
focus a lot on holidays. It do not matter whos birthday it is, we will all celebrate it. It is
constantly a reminded that life is celebrated so every birthday is acknowledged. Christian

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holidays are a hug part of our family as well, they are celebrated on both sides, due to the fact
both sides are some form of Christianity. We never really pulled things from our German side as
far as culture or tradition goes, but it does not go unnoticed. There were never any differences in
cultures in my family, unless we are talking about politics.
The beliefs in my family are strongly influenced from religion, which we are from a
Catholic background and go to a catholic church. We were raised in a catholic school for nine
years. Most of our traditions are based on the way Italians celebrate holidays. In A World View, it
states, Italian traditions in Italy are based heavily on the religion of Christianity, (1997). We
dont eat meat on Fridays during lent, we do the rosary, we dont eat meat twenty four hours
before Christmas eve, but we follow it just as many Italians do with the biggest Christmas meal.
According to DePauw Universities student website on Italy, Italians love strong family
ties, and they honor all family obligations (Culture Grams). My family has always taught me
family comes first no matter what they situation is. Also, the family is the anchor of the Italian
social structure, and it serves to help its members both emotionally and financially (Culture
Grams). My family always has a helping hand no matter what. We do not like to see our loved
ones struggle so we are there in any way possible. This also applies to close friends we consider
family. The importance of love and relationships to us is very important.
Culture in Social work:
My culture identity may or may not affect my work as a social worker. It could affect the
fact that since I am only German and Italian and I have built different values based off of my

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own culture. I may not know firsthand how other cultures or ethnicities handle different
situations or celebrate different things. They may have different values or morals, and sometimes
being educated may not be enough. It is the best interest to be knowledgeable on these different
cultures so we can better understand the way a person acts.
My values that I have adapted within my culture give me the ability to lend a hand to
those in need. These values are what helped me realize that social work is what I wanted to do.
With being raised always knowing that helping those in need is important, it has given me the
ability to see the struggle and understand, it also has taught me no one needs a reason other than
it is the right thing to do. My culture has done nothing but strengthened my values as a social
Biophysical Dimension:
According to the text Human Behavior in the Social Environment, the biophysical
dimension consists of the biochemical systems, cell systems, organ systems, and physiological
systems (p.19). It is arranges hierarchically and helps in the assessment of an individuals
physical growth and development. With this, we discover how these aspects affect our behavior
as individuals. These are things that could be hereditary. My family has a small history of heart
disease, nothing though that has past my grandparents generation onto my parents. There was
also a small line of breast cancer, also thankfully never past my grandparents generation onto
my parents. There are small things that I see as a hereditary trait such as physical features like
eyes, wrinkles on the forehead, but it is most the behavior that I see that has been based on. I see
the impatience, some stubbornness, and the willingness to be there whenever needed. These are
little things that have stuck with my family over generations.

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Psychological Dimension:
The psychological dimension is the systems that are considered the mental processes. It
includes information processing and cognitive development, communication, attitudes, and
regulations of emotions, self concept and identity (Ashford, Lecroy, 2013, p.21). My family has a
great way of regulating emotions, I witness great examples of this regularly. We have good
coping skills and we understand a good way of communication. We have good attitudes about
everything, on sports, agreements, on education, we all realize that to function we have to have
an understanding on communication, attitudes and how this will help shape us individually but as
a family. This is what my grandparents and parents have taught me, and I will continue to teach
my children when that time comes, it is multigenerational.
Social Dimension:
The social dimension is the most relatable to my family. In Human Behavior in the Social
Environment, it is the systems of social relationships that a person interacts with individually or
in a group. It involves not only the family, but the communities, other support systems, cultural
groups, and social institutions. My family of course supports communities outside of our own for
close personal family reasons. We branch out to other communities giving them the support they
need. We are also a part of a church and schools, which would be social institutions. Within these
systems we are able to maintain relationships as a whole or individually, it helps build up
character and gives us more skills that what a family could teach as far as coping and
communication. It strengthens decision making and cohesiveness, we understand the subject of
status and power, along with effects we may have on others.

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Throughout history, we see different patterns, different cultures, different means of
thinking or behavior and this could all simply stem from who we are. The way we act is
completely based off how we interact with other people and our behavioral skills we were taught.
It affects how we interact with the people close to us along with those we consider strangers. It
will continue to affect how we interact with people in the work place in our futures as social
workers. Culture is everywhere, and we need to see how big it truly is. It is rooted in every
family and individual and is a main factor is how humans behave.

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Here is a family tree I made in third grade with the help of my mother and my
grandmother. This shows the strong connection my family has with religion.

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Works cited:
Family. 2011. In Retrieved October 17, 2013, from
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013, May 11). Different Types of Families: A Portrait Gallery.
Retrieved from
(1997) World View: Christmas in Italy. Retrieved from
DePauw University. Italy: Values and Proverbs. Retrieved from

"Italian Republic." Culture Grams World Edition (2003).

Ashford, J., Lecroy, C. (2013). Human Behavior in the Social Environment: A Multidimensional
Perspective (p. 20-195). Belmont, CA: Jon-David Hague.