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Family Purpose in the 21st Century: an exploratory exemplar-style study on understanding and fostering among families with extraordinary responsibilites (full research)
Project status: Running
Faculty: Psychology
Project leader: Assoc.- Prof. Tarek el Sehity, Ph.D.; Prof. Anne Colby, Ph.D.; Assoc.- Prof. Kendall Bronk, Ph.D.
Project runtime: 15.07.2019 - 14.07.2022
Research Focus:
  • Economic Psychology
  • Family Enterprise
Project leader:

Assoc.- Prof. Tarek el Sehity, Ph.D. (; Prof. Anne Colby, Ph.D. (; Assoc.- Prof. Kendall Bronk, Ph.D. (

Project team:

Project Advisor; Prof. Heinrich Liechtenstein, Ph.D. (; Project Advisor; Prof. William Damon, Ph.D. (

Cooperation partners:

Claremont Graduate University; Stanford University

Project runtime:

15.07.2019 - 14.07.2022


John Templeton Foundation, Grant # 61482


By definition, ultra-high net-worth (UHNW) families control large sums of money, and how that money is spent influences the lives of people around the world. These families too often squander money or spend it on intra-familial lawsuits, and money that might otherwise have benefitted causes the family supports, is lost. The social impact of this is significant. Wealth managers surmise the missing ingredient in helping these families more responsibly manage and transmit wealth across generations may be a collective family purpose.
This proposed study seeks to bring the scientific knowledge of individual purpose to bear on the problem of wealth transmission among UHNW-families and the growing number of families in the US and abroad that are well on their way to becoming UHNW-families. We aim to advance our understanding of how family purposes develop and how they can be encouraged. To that end, we hope to launch an exploratory, exemplar-style study that explores the conditions under which family purposes develop and are transmitted across generations. We also plan to partner with organizations that can help us share our findings with the families who stand to benefit from them the most. We have met with multiple organizations interested in collaborating with us. Accordingly, we believe findings from this proposed study will have a significant, positive impact on the way UHNW-families consider wealth transmission and their responsibility to others. Providing guidance to these families around how they can develop and transmit a collective family purpose that directs wealth distribution will have significant social benefits.