Family, Socialization, and Development in Spain: A Cross-National Comparison with the United States (*)

Article excerpt

Felix Requena (**)

ABSTRACT

This paper empirically examines the causal relationships that occur between the values and attitudes that children learn during the process of socialization and the developmental process, which has taken place in Spain and the United States. When learned at an early age, values and attitudes such as responsibility, imagination, or perseverance constitute an important support for the future developmental processes of a society, if taken globally as extended values among a country's population. The data for this analysis came from the 1995 World Values Survey. The dependent variable in the causal analysis is the tendency in each of these countries towards the service sector. As independent variables we have used family values and attitudes, as well as structural characteristics of families and the various values taught to kids within the home. The varying effects of socialization on development were studied through principal components analysis, and also path analysis. The conclusions manifest that the differen t values taught in the two countries in their processes of socialization determine differing degrees and levels of development.

Introduction

We attempt to analyze the relationship between the values and attitudes that children learn during the process of socialization and the developmental process. The socialization process is one of the main vital foundations of an individual's future, to the point of affecting even one's future economic actions. When learned early on, values and attitudes such as responsibility, imagination, perseverance or unselfishness can become a priceless foundation for the future of a society, if considered in their entirety as generalized values among the population of a nation.

The family is a social institution of vital importance for the social system. Society's future social individuals are created within the family, which is why those values associated with the family are the foundation of an individual's actions in subsequently developing their lives as members of society. Consequently the attitudes and values that the members of a family believe in, transmitted to its youngest members, will be the basis for the attitudes and values that later on will be practiced -- and built upon -- in the subsequent society. The values that support communal structure are essential for the development of a society.

One of the key aspects of the family institution is that of socialization preparing individuals for their subsequent introduction into the social system. In an earlier era the family was a quasi-total institution in the sense of combining economic functions of production, consumption, welfare, and so on. They constituted economic units that came close to full autonomy, but this situation has changed with the passage of time. Institutions grow in size and their functions change due to the fact that the social system in which they are immersed creates specialized subsystems for tasks that formerly were accomplished by the original institution, forcing it to redefine its position within the social system. This has been the case with the family as a social institution. As Daniel Bell (1973) pointed out, "today the family has become a unit for producing emotional goods. That is, whether couples have children or not, the contemporary family has specialized in producing affection. The children and/or the couple fun damentally find in the family an emotional support" (pp.203-204). Today the family has become structurally differentiated, sending many of its functions outside the home. In this sense, although one of the most difficult tasks of socialization takes place outside the home, that is the process of schooling which is carried out in educational institutions, the family continues to be the emotional support structure through which central values are generated which endure throughout the life of the individual in his or her future social trajectory. …