3 minute read

Intergenerational Exchanges

Changes Over The Life Course

Exchanges of assistance vary in patterned ways over the life course of both parents and children. One of the surest ways to receive parental support is to have a child. Giving to children is also affected by changes in the lives of parents. Most significantly, as parents age, they tend to give less to their children. Much of this decline in giving can be explained by factors associated with aging (e.g., declines in health, death of spouse, changing needs of children). Yet, there is evidence that this gradual decline in the likelihood of giving help to children persists even when these other factors are taken into account.

Finally, and inevitably, the death of the parent leads to an inheritance of the parent's estate. This "final" intergenerational transfer has received significantly less attention from researchers. Available evidence indicates that parents typically treat their children equally in bequests. However, at least one study shows that those who did not give equally did not systematically give more to children with lower earnings.



COONEY, T. M., and UHLENBERG, P. R. "Support from Parents over the Life Course." Social Forces 71 (1992): 62–84.

COX, D., and RANK, M. R. "Inter-Vivos Transfers and Intergenerational Exchange." Journal of Political Economy 82 (1992): 305–314.

DAVEY, A., and EGGEBEEN, D. J. "Patterns of Intergenerational Exchange and Mental Health." Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 53 (1998): P86–P95.

DEUTSCH, M. "Equity, Equality, and Need: What Determines Which Value Will Be Used as the Basis of Distributive Justice?" Journal of Social Issues 31 (1975): 137–149.

DILWORTH-ANDERSON, P. "Extended Kin Networks in Black Families." Generations 14 (1992): 29–32.

EGGEBEEN, D. J. "Family Structure and Intergenerational Exchanges." Research on Aging 14 (1992): 427–447.

EGGEBEEN, D. J., and HOGAN, D. P. "Giving Between Generations in American Families." Human Nature 1 (1990): 211–232.

EGGEBEEN, D. J., and WILHELM, M. O. "Patterns of Support Given by Older Americans to Their Children." In Aging and Active: Dimensions of Productive Engagement Among Older Americans. Edited by S. A. Bass. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. Pages 122–168.

HOGAN, D. P.; EGGEBEEN, D. J.; and CLOGG, C. C. "The Structure of Intergenerational Exchanges in American Families." American Journal of Sociology 98 (1993): 1428–1458.

JAYAKODY, R. "Race Differences in Intergenerational Financial Assistance." Journal of Family Issues 19 (1998): 508–533.

LOGAN, J., and SPITZE, G. Family Ties: Enduring Relations Between Parents and Their Grown Children. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 1996.

MARKIDES, K. S.; BOLDT, J. S.; and RAY, L. A. "Sources of Helping and Intergenerational Solidarity: A Three-Generational Study of Mexican Americans." Journal of Gerontology 41 (1986): 506–511.

MCGARRY, K., and SCHOENI, R. F. "Transfer Behavior Within the Family: Results from the Asset and Health Dynamics Study." The Journals of Gerontology Series B 52B (Special Issue), (1997): 83–92.

MENCHIK, P. L. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U.S. Distribution of Wealth." Quarterly Journal of Economics 94 (1980): 299–316.

ROSSI, A. S., and ROSSI, P. H. Of Human Bonding: Parent-Child Relations Across the Life Course. New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1990.

SPITZE, G., and LOGAN, J. "Helping as a Component of Parent-Adult Child Relations." Research on Aging 14 (1992): 291–312.

STACK, C. All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in the Black Community. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

WILHELM, M. O. "Bequest Behavior and the Effect of Heirs' Earnings: Testing the Altruistic Model of Bequests." American Economic Review 86 (1996): 874–892.

WILSON, M. "The Black Extended Family: An Analytical Consideration." Developmental Psychology 22 (1986): 246–258.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 2Intergenerational Exchanges - Consequences Of Social And Demographic Changes For Exchanges Between Generations, Why Do Individuals Give?, Factors That Affect Exchanges