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Family Wealth: — Keeping It in the Family — How Family Members and Their Advisers Preserve Human, Intellectual, and Financial Assets for Generations, Revised and Expanded Edition by James E. Hughes Jr.

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Chapter 16. The Role of Aunts and Uncles

I have observed that aunts and uncles are critically important to the development of their nieces and nephews into successful family members. Moreover, it is vital to a family's success that the formative roles played by aunts and uncles be acknowledged and supported.

Anthropology reveals that in tribal societies, when a boy or girl is passing through puberty and entering adulthood, often the boy's uncles and the girl's aunts take custody of their repective nephews and nieces to prepare them for their adult roles. These societies, as well as our modern ones, recognize that normal, healthy conflicts exist between parents and children as the children move toward individualization, adulthood, and independence. These conflicts make it unlikely that parents alone can effectively prepare their children to fulfill their adult roles in society. Tribal society intuits that the blood relationships we have with our aunts and uncles—after all, they share equally the original source of our parents' DNA—confer a strong bond that will permit them to successfully mentor us. To take this idea a step further, some biologists and psychologists believe that the impulse and set of behaviors we call altruism is almost as strong between aunts and uncles and their nephews and nieces as between parents and children, because they share a substantial part of one another's gene pools. With this strong biological connection and its assorted psychological realities, it ...

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