Social Norms

Chapters 4 and 5 focused on those who have given and/or received lifetime gifts. They showed that a minority of the population have received lifetime gifts of more than ?500. These gifts include help with buying/getting a car; paying for a wedding or other social occasion; buying/maintaining a property; the birth of children; paying for education; and so on. Gifts tend to flow down generations from parents to children but can skip generations and can also be given to other family members such as siblings and nephews/nieces. The value of gifts varies dramatically. Large gifts can make a considerable difference to people in terms of helping them on the housing ladder and making it easier for them to access higher education. But relatively small gifts can also make a substantial difference, for example, in helping people to pay off debts and therefore reduce stress and anxiety. People give gifts because they want to support their children to become independent adults; to succeed in life and to avoid the need to struggle. When deciding whether or not to help their relatives, people are concerned not to ‘spoil’ their children by being too generous as they believe such generosity will not help them become ‘responsible’ for themselves and ‘independent’ in later life. Notions of reciprocity are also central to views about the nature of ‘family’ relationships.

© The Author(s) 2017

K. Rowlingson et al., Inter-generational Financial Giving and Inequality, Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95047-8_6

As we have seen, only a minority of the population have actually given or received lifetime gifts so what do people more generally think about such gifts? In other words, what do they think about supporting adult family members, financially? And what does this tell us about the nature of family relationships today? This chapter looks, first of all, at whether or not there are ‘social norms’ around giving and receiving financial support to family members. Is there a general consensus on this? Here we, again, draw on both our quantitative and qualitative data and compare our findings with previous research in this field.

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