Transmission of Values from Adolescents to Their Parents: The Role of Value Content and Authoritative Parenting

By Pinquart, Martin; Silbereisen, Rainer K. | Adolescence, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview
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Transmission of Values from Adolescents to Their Parents: The Role of Value Content and Authoritative Parenting


Pinquart, Martin, Silbereisen, Rainer K., Adolescence


Most models of value socialization within the family are unidirectional: children are assumed to internalize the attitudes, rules, and expectations of their parents (e.g., Schonpflug, 2001). However, this unnecessarily constrains research on intergenerational transmission of values (Kuczynski, Marshall, & Schell, 1997), at least if we look at the parent-adolescent relationship.

A half-century ago, Mannheim (1952) suggested that young people are an innovative force, demanding social adaptations in the parental generation. In the present paper, transmission of values is defined as a bidirectional process involving parental influence on children, and children's influence on their parents. In order to assess the transmission of values from parents to adolescents and from adolescents to their parents, we examine longitudinal data covering a one-year period. Further, we identify moderator variables that can promote or inhibit the intergenerational transmission of attitudes and values.

Similarities of Attitudes of Parents and Children, and Value Transmission Within the Family

In general terms, values can be defined as explicit or implicit conceptions about the desirability of means and ends of action that influence the planning and direction of individual behavior (Marini, 2000; Kuhnke, 1997). According to Kohn (1983), transmission of values concerns mainly political orientations, religious beliefs, and lifestyles.

The transmission of values between parents and their children has been studied in a variety of domains, with correlations varying considerably. For example, Kohn, Slomczynski, and Schoenbach (1986) found moderate to strong parent-child correlations with regard to self-direction/conformity to external authority (r = .37-.58). Garnier and Stein (1998) reported a less substantial mother-adolescent correlation with regard to achievement (r = .22). In studies by Nauck (1995, 1997), attitudes of fathers and sons (e.g, collectivist values, sex role, utility of children) were correlated at r = -.02-.26 (mean = .15), and attitudes of mothers and daughters at r = -.02-.34 (mean = .15). Similarly, Boehnke (2001) reported modest mean correlations of values of adolescents and their fathers (r = .12) and their mothers (r = .17). Highest correlations were found with regard to hedonism (r = .32-.34), and lowest (and nonsignificant) with regard to self-transcendence (r = .01-.06). Schonpflug (2001) found positive associations between collectivist values of fathers and sons ([beta] = .20-.28), and to a much lesser extent between their individualistic values. In a study involving Turkish and Moroccan migrant families, Phalet and Schonpflug (2001) found positive associations between parental collectivist values and those of their children ([psi] = .23-.36), but no significant associations with regard to individualistic values. In a study by Homer (1993), attitudes of parents and students were correlated at r = -.04-.21. Finally, Looker and Pineo (1983) found no significant associations between the values of adolescents and their parents (specifically, self-directedness and conformity).

In these studies, values were assessed at only one point in time, so that it remains an open question whether observed associations were due to parental influences on their children or vice versa, or even external socialization forces (e.g., historical events, common social environment) rather than transmission within the family (Harris, 1995). Although most researchers interpret correlations between values of parents and adolescents as indicating parental influence on the attitudes of their children, children may also influence parental attitudes. For example, in a study by Peters (1985), 81% of the parents of undergraduate college students reported some attitudinal change due to the influence of their children, such as their attitudes toward youth (63%), sexuality (43%), and ethnic minorities (33%). Similarly, Hagestad (1977) reported that three-quarters of mothers with college-age children said their children had tried to influence their opinion during the past two or three years, and two-thirds reported that their children had had some effect in this regard.

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