Family legacies constructing individual and family identity through intergenerational storytelling

Blair Thompson, Jody Koenig Kellas, Jordan Soliz, Jason Thompson, Amber Epp, Paul Schrodt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The current study focused on discovering the ways in which the intergenerational transmission of family legacy stories both enables and constrains individual family members' sense of their own identities. Using semi-structured interviews, 17 third generation family members identified a multitude of both positive and negative family legacies. Both positive and negative legacies were influenced by the storytelling context. Positive legacies portrayed families as hardworking, caring, and cohesive while negative legacies were more idiosyncratic. Individual family members typically responded to their family legacies by embracing the positive and rejecting the negative. However, individuals' responses also pointed to additional complexities in accepting or rejecting family legacies. Specifically, some individuals embraced negative family legacies and rejected positive ones; others only accepted portions of the legacies; and some reported their legacies as unembraceable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-134
Number of pages29
JournalNarrative Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Family legacy
  • Identity
  • Intergenerational
  • Storytelling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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