Academic journal article Family Relations

Family Processes during Adolescence as Predictors of Parent-Young Adult Attitude Similarity

Academic journal article Family Relations

Family Processes during Adolescence as Predictors of Parent-Young Adult Attitude Similarity

Article excerpt

According to an old adage, successful parenting entails working one-self out of a job. As children develop, their parents typically grant them greater autonomy; the offspring, in turn, assume more responsibility for regulating their own behavior. Ideally, the parents will transmit to their children norms, values, and belief systems that the offspring will find useful in guiding their own decisions and actions, a process that has been termed internalization. How do parents accomplish the delicate task of granting their maturing children greater autonomy, while still effecting the transmission of their own attitudes, beliefs, and values to the children? Despite he considerable interest in this process, surprisingly little is actually known about the conditions that foster internalization of parental attitudes and beliefs. In this study, we examine variations in several family processes assessed during adolescence and their links with similarity in parent-offspring attitudes and values assessed 6 years later.

Thus far, discussions of those family processes that forecast intergenerational similarity in attitudes and values have been more theoretical than empirical (Kohn, 1983; Stryker & Serpe, 1983). In the empirical investigations that have been conducted on parent-adolescent attitude similarity, one of two data collection procedures usually has been followed. The first involves asking adolescents to report their own attitudes concerning one or more issues, then asking them to report the attitudes that they believe their parents hold concerning the same issues (Acock & Bengston, 1980; Kandel, 1974; Kandel, Kessler, & Marguiles, 1978; Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988). The degree of similarity between the two adolescent-provided reports is interpreted as an index of parent-child value congruence. In the second procedure, adolescents and their parents each report on their own views independently. The parents' reports of their actual attitudes are compared with the adolescents' reported views to measure value congruence (Acock & Bengston, 1980; Gecas & Schwalbe, 1986; Jessop, 1981; Kandel, 1974; Kandel et al., 1978; Schroeder, Blood, & Maluso, 1992; Starrels, 1992; Whitbeck & Gecas, 1988).

The results of these studies indicate that parent-adolescent agreement appears to be higher when adolescents provide the information on parental attitudes than when the parents provide it themselves. One reason for this finding is the response bias inherent in using the same informant to report on several people's attitudes. Another concerns the accuracy of adolescents' perceptions of their parents' values. In a study in which adolescents and young adults reported their own values and predicted their parents' responses on the same issues, while the parents reported their own attitudes concerning those issues, Acock and Bengston (1980) found that the adolescents' and young adults' perceptions of their parents' values differed considerably from the parents' actual reported values. These results suggest that the use of adolescents' reports of their parents' values is not an accurate means of measuring the actual similarity of parents' and adolescents' attitudes. Future studies of value congruence must rely on independent reports of adolescents' and parents' own views.

Despite the importance of internalization processes, few investigations have explored the reasons why some adolescents' attitudes and values are similar to those of their parents, whereas others' are not. Whitbeck and Gecas (1988) reported that adolescents' values were more similar to those they perceived their parents to hold when the young people described their parents as supportive and reported parental use of inductive control. Kandel (1974) found that adolescents were more likely to perceive their parents' values accurately when parents explicitly stated them; accurate perception was, in turn, associated with a greater likelihood of parent-adolescent value similarity. …

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