‘Do You Know’ Your Family History?: Using the DYK Scale to Instill Your Sense of Intergenerational Self

July 25, 2016 / no comments

Most parents are eager to improve the lives of their children. “I want to give you a better life than the one I had” is a common phrase exchanged in the parent-child relationship. Though scientists, psychologists, and countless others have tried to narrow down one parenting technique that will accomplish this frequently-sought-after goal, one psychologist found that an important key to success in this regard might be found in creating a strong family narrative.

As the New York Times reports, Doctor Marshall Duke began studying myth and ritual of the American family in the mid-1990s when his wife, Doctor Sarah Duke, psychologist, began noticing common themes among her patients who dealt with learning disabilities — those who knew more about their family history were more successful as they faced challenges. Through her findings, she hypothesized that there must be a strong connection between the two.

Fascinated by his wife’s discovery, Dr. Duke began developing a scale of questions that would prove the accuracy of Sarah’s hypothesis. This 20-question scale is known as the “Do You Know?” scale, and measures a child’s knowledge of his or her family history.

Introducing this scale to children to measure and improve self-confidence led Dr. Duke to an amazing discovery:

“Children who have the most self-confidence have a strong sense of ‘intergenerational self.’ They know they belong to something bigger than themselves” (“The Family Stories That Bind Us,” The New York Times, Bruce Feiler, 17 March 2013).

It is important to acknowledge that children were not made stronger simply by learning about their family history. It is that sense of ‘intergenerational self,’ or the idea that they are part of something greater than themselves, that helped them through difficult times.

Dr. Duke describes it like this:

“It is not the content of what is known that is the critical factor, but the process by which these things came to be known. This process is, in our opinion, the causational factor. In order to hear family stories, people need to sit down with one another and not be distracted. Some people have to talk and some have to listen. The stories need to be told over and over and the times of sitting together need to be multiple and occur over many years” (“The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?,” The Huffington Post, Marshall Duke, 23 March 2013).

While this scale was developed primarily for children, answering these 20 questions about your own family history can give you just the jumpstart you need to start your own family history record, as well.

Legacy Books will help you put together a beautiful family history record no matter where you are at in the research process. Knowing how to start your own family history can be a daunting task, but answering these 20 questions is a great place to start.

The “Do You Know?” scale will bring confidence to your children and a jumpstart to your own family history. Preserving family legacies is important and that’s what Legacy Books does best.

“The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones,” the New York Times reports. “That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come” (“The Family Stories That Bind Us,” The New York Times, Bruce Feiler, 17 March 2013).

Preserving Legacy is an Art and We Wrote the Book. ®


Questions included in the “Do You Know?” scale are as follows:

  1. Do you know how your parents met?
  2. Do you know where your mother grew up?
  3. Do you know where your father grew up?
  4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up?
  5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met?
  6. Do you know where your parents were married?
  7. Do you know what went on when you were being born?
  8. Do you know the source of your name?
  9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born?
  10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like?
  11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like?
  12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger?
  13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences?
  14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school?
  15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)?
  16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young?
  17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young?
  18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to?
  19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to?
  20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough?