Socialization Values of Mothers and Fathers: Does the Child's Age Matter?

By Tulviste, Tiia | Trames, June 2013 | Go to article overview
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Socialization Values of Mothers and Fathers: Does the Child's Age Matter?

Tulviste, Tiia, Trames

1. Introduction

A lot of research has been devoted to socialization values held by parents because these values are known to play a role in shaping the ways in which children are being treated by their parents and how parents organize their children's home environment (see Hirsijarvi and Perala-Littunen 2001, Hoff et al. 2002, Holden 1995). Socialization values have been found to differ substantially across cultures reflecting different broader cultural ideologies and models of raising children (Greenfield et al. 2003, Kagitcibaci 2005, Keller et al. 2005, Wang and Tamis-LeMonda 2003). Several socio-cultural factors (e.g. parental educational level, income, neighborhood ecology, ethnicity, the child's gender) have been shown to be responsible for within-cultural differences in socialization values (see Hoff et al. 2002). Among all these factors, parental educational level has been found to be the factor most strongly related to what qualities parents value in children, especially regarding the extent to which they value self-directive behavior over conformity (Hoff et al. 2002). Despite the popularity of research on socialization values, many questions have remained unanswered regarding issues such as the implications of the parents' gender and the child's age on socialization values.

It is not known whether and to what extent are socialization values held by mothers similar to those of fathers. Parental value congruence is not just a matter of agreement between the parents, the agreement is influenced also by Zeitgeist the prevailing value climate in a given society at a given time (Boehnke et al.2007).

It is well documented that by now the role of men in families has changed, and fathers are more involved and take more responsibility in child rearing than before (e. g. Marsiglio et al. 2000). Despite the need to include both mothers and fathers in research concerning family influences on child development, developmental psychologists have focused almost exclusively on research on socialization values held by mothers (see Hirsijarvi and Perala-Littunen 2001, Holden, 1995, for overviews). Value surveys, in turn, have generally not paid special attention to whether the respondents have children at all when reporting results of their findings on socialization values held in certain societies (for instance, Special EUROBAROMETER 225, 2005).

At the same time, some studies show the importance of value agreement between parents. For instance, it has been shown that a mother and father holding more similar values would have an offspring who more strongly desires to share these values (e.g. Cashmore and Goodnow 1985, Okagaki and Bevis 1999, Knafo and Schwartz 2003). Yet little empirical studies have been done on the issue.

A pilot study made by Tulviste and Ahtonen (2007) with relatively small sample size of parents of preschool-age children found that socialization values of fathers were similar to those held by mothers. At the same time, the value similarity was bigger in Finnish than in Estonian families: compared to fathers, Estonian mothers were more likely to emphasize the importance of qualities related to traditional values such as benevolence (e.g. kind, nice, friendly) and conformity (e.g. polite, honoring parents and elders) in children. None of these studies has examined mother-father value congruence as related to the age of the child.

It has been debated in literature whether and to what extent the child's age influences parental socialization values. According to some authors, parents adjust their socialization values as children develop (Chiu 1987). It is likely that parents modify their parenting values especially during their children's adolescent years to be in line with developmental changes (the children's increasing need for autonomy and independence). Researchers have reported contradictory results about the issue (see Barber et al. 2005).

According to other authors, on the contrary, parental socialization values remain relatively stable when children grow older, including adolescent years.

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