Inheritance events

Perceptions of actions that involve the giving and receiving of things

Jacqueline J. Goodnow*, Jeanette A. Lawrence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


To explore perceptions of inheritance events, people were asked to describe arrangements they regarded as having "worked well" or not. This approach was productive. It yielded narratives that covered positive and negative arrangements, contributed by younger and older adults (mean ages 18 and 45 with few signs of age differences). Selected for closer analysis were 56 narratives involving things rather than only money or land. The aims were to investigate what distinguishes actions viewed positively or negatively, and whether inheritance giving and receiving is like gift-giving and gift-receiving. Analysis brought out the need to separate two routes to acquisition (direct gifts and "family works it out"), and distinctions among actions (e.g., actions treating objects as "treasures" or " commodities"). They also brought out concerns with distributive and procedural aspects of actions. There was a reasonable fit between the results and general proposals about gift giving and receiving. Some redefinitions, however, were needed for concepts of "commodity" and "reciprocity". The results add to our understanding of why inheritable things matter and the features of inheritance-related actions that people regard as significant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number25
JournalForum Qualitative Sozialforschung
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • Commoditisation
  • Family narratives
  • Inheritable things
  • Inheritance arrangements
  • Personal items

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