Skip to main content
What’s in a Word? Naming Obligations
Journal of Family Issues (2018)
  • Ashton Chapman, University of Missouri
  • Lawrence Ganong, University of Missouri
  • Marilyn Coleman, University of Missouri
  • Kwangman Ko, University of Missouri
  • Youngjin Kang, University of Missouri
Although obligation is believed to be a central component of family relationships, empirical investigation of if, how, and to what extent connotations associated with terms commonly used to denote “family obligation” affect exchanges of family support remains limited. In this mixed-method study, we explored the effects of words commonly used to denote family obligations (i.e., obligation, responsibility, duty) on perceptions of parents’ and stepparents’ assistance to children in different contexts. Using factorial vignettes, we collected data from 664 individuals from the Midwestern United States. Perceptions about parental assistance to children differed significantly based on the word included in the vignettes. In general, respondents perceived parents’ and stepparents’ assistance to children as a choice more than as an obligation, responsibility, or duty. Perceptions did not differ by type of relationship (i.e., biological- or step-relationship) or gender. Findings have implications for research on beliefs about exchanges of intergenerational support.
  • family obligation,
  • family assistance,
  • parent–child relationships,
  • stepparent– stepchild mixed-method,
  • factorial vignette
Publication Date
May 28, 2018
Citation Information
Ashton Chapman, Lawrence Ganong, Marilyn Coleman, Kwangman Ko, et al.. "What’s in a Word? Naming Obligations" Journal of Family Issues Vol. 39 (2018) p. 3276 - 3297 ISSN: 0192-513X
Available at: