This article is a qualitative review of 32 publications appearing since J. Bossard and E. Boll's (1950) seminal work on family rituals was conducted. Definitions are offered whereby a distinction is made between family routines as observable practices and family rituals as symbolic representations of collective events. The relative occurrence of family routines, as described in the literature, appears to follow a developmental course and is affected by the cultural environment. Family routines and rituals were found to be related to parenting competence, child adjustment, and marital satisfaction. The studies were limited by inconsistent methods of assessing family routines, reliance on samples of convenience, and a failure to distinguish between direct and indirect effects. Recommendations are made to better integrate theory with empirical efforts to demonstrate the importance of family routines and rituals in contemporary life.
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