Seattle Foundation Blog

Are You An Almond Person or A Radish Person?

Dr. Marshall Duke shares his research on resilience in children and family storytelling



March 13, 2018

By Lauren Domino, Philanthropic Advisor

What helps young people bounce back from hardship and succeed despite challenges? It turns out that the more kids know about their family’s history, the better they do in life. And knowing more about their family can help them determine whether they’re almond or radish people when it comes to giving, or a bit of both.

Dr. Marshall Duke, Professor of Psychology at Emory University and acclaimed researcher, recently joined Seattle Foundation for a video webinar to lift up his findings on the link between family storytelling and resilience in children. You can view the webinar in its entirety in the embedded video.

While conducting a study in 2001 with 40 families to learn more about children’s resilience, something unexpected happened — the tragic attacks of September 11. Dr. Duke’s research team observed that some families were able to bounce back from the shock of the event quickly while others struggled for months. Based on the interviews they had already conducted, a hypothesis emerged: children who know more about their family history do better in life.

Dr. Duke’s team developed a series of 20 simple questions to assess how much children know about their families, such as “Do you know where your parents grew up?” They called this the “Do You Know” scale. It turns out that the single best predictor of self-esteem, family function, psychological adjustment and resilience was the “Do You Know” score.

So why is it that kids who know more about their families are more resilient? Stories are a vehicle for transmitting values like, “We are the kind of family who believes in helping others.” As stories are passed down to a young person, he or she develops what Dr. Duke calls an intergenerational self. A twelve-year-old can only have the lived experience of twelve years, yet through the stories of parents, grandparents and beyond, his or her knowledge is extended over many decades, providing more context to inform decisions.

Philanthropy can be a powerful tool for passing down your family stories and putting values into action. Dr. Duke shared his observation that there are often two general mindsets when it comes to giving: the almond people and the radish people. The almond people want to plant a tree, even if they won’t be around to enjoy the almonds, which take five or more years to produce. Alternatively, radish people want to see the impact of their giving right away, as radishes are a fast-growing vegetable ready for eating in just a few weeks. This can lead to conflict and challenges in creating collective giving plans. 

And that’s where Seattle Foundation steps in. Whether you come from a long line of almond people or radish people – or like most families, both – Seattle Foundation is a leader in the field of family philanthropy, and we have a range of services to support you in advancing your philanthropic and community impact goals. Please reach out to our Philanthropic Services team to learn more at 206-515-2111.

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