The Intergenerational Transmission of Family Values: A Comparison between Teenagers and Parents in Taiwan

Article excerpt

Inspired by Melvin Kohn and his colleagues, data gathered from various countries over the last three decades have shown that class structure is a significant aspect in understanding how parents socialize their children. Middle-class parents have consistently demonstrated different child-rearing patterns in contrast with their working-class counterpart. Parent's occupation, with the concomitant contextual requirement, is thus argued to impose preferential values with regard to child-rearing practice. The conclusion appears to be universally valid and becomes a consensus.

This study argues that besides the manifest effect of parent's occupation, the social norms imbedded may serve a more powerful explanation and should be taken into account. It is long been recognized that cultural practice (including family socialization) is constrained by common social values which are diverse and sometimes opposite among different societies. Specifically, filial piety, interpersonal harmony, honor and trust, etc. are deep-rooted Asian values, and are not necessarily equivalent to Western values of obedience and popularity. It will be interesting to explore possible effects on the intergenerational transmission of family values between cultural norms and personal resources.

Data are taken from a survey study conducted in 2000. 2700 7th graders and one of their parents as well as 2800 9th graders and one of their parents in northern Taiwan were interviewed. Correspondent data sets are available for comparative analysis. Hence, this paper intends to delineate an indigenous classification of social class in a society like Taiwan, to incorporate cultural elements such as traditional social values and sex-role attitudes in the analysis, and to present comparative research results in line with previous efforts on the value transmission in the family.

THE RESEARCH TOPIC

Inspired by Bronfenbrenner (1958) and Kohn (1959, 1963, 1969, 1986), studies with regard to how parental values affect the child rearing practice as well as the possible intergenerational transmission to children's values have been important research interests among family study scholars. Parental value is presumed to be conditioned by the surrounding life conditions, especially the work traits or occupational characteristics. Class difference is thus found to be a significant factor accounted for the variation revealed in the preferred pattern. A special contribution in this line of research is its focus on the cross-societal comparison. Besides various regions of the U.S.A., Canada, Poland, Italy, Ireland and Japan have served as research loci to test the applicability of the proposed hypothesis.

With the increased interest in the work and family issues, how workplace shapes adult's family sphere has aroused much research attention. The important work by Menaghan and Parcel (1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997) throughout the 1990s has shown that parental work experience does provide a determining effect on children's lives. From their U.S. national samples, the occupational complexity of parents' jobs, especially mother's, plays decisive role in the subsequent children's functioning. It is further argued that mothers' intellectual ability interacted with degrees of job complexity may result in varying childrearing values or practice and as a consequence, affect children's value orientation (e.g., to internalize norms). Although restricted to one nation--the U.S., the social context, such as different family structure, is considered in other related analysis and is proved to be significant (Cooksey, et al, 1997).

Along the same line, this paper attempts to address to two major research questions. One is to explore the intergenerational transmission of childrearing values in a non-western society, Taiwan. The analyses on parent's work and education as well as on parental values and parental childrearing style will allow us to ascertain if parental socio-economic status or childrearing preference accounts for the correspondent value of children. …