How Families Give and Receive: A Cross-Class Qualitative Study of Familial Exchange

Laura Napolitano, Frank Furstenberg, Karen L. Fingerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Support of family members has been a long-standing interest of social scientists. Contemporary American families must provide support to members in a historical context wherein family inequality continues to rise. Based on the life course perspective, and utilizing qualitative, in-depth interviews with 50 multi-generational participants from the Family Exchanges Study, this article explores the mechanisms through which families across the socioeconomic spectrum engage in and perceive family support. We discuss both direct and indirect requests by family members for help and identify differences by family socioeconomic status. We also discuss how issues of reciprocity, views toward request propriety, and perceptions of appreciation guide family member responses to need. We argue that this cross-class comparison is particularly essential to further scholarly understands of family functioning and support amidst growing inequality in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2159-2180
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Family Issues
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • family support
  • life course theory
  • qualitative methods


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