Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Life Course Stage in Young Adulthood and Intergenerational Congruence in Family Attitudes

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Life Course Stage in Young Adulthood and Intergenerational Congruence in Family Attitudes

Article excerpt

We investigated how intergenerational congruence in family-related attitudes depends on life course stage in young adulthood. Recent data from the Netherlands Kinship Panel Study were used; the present sample included 2,041 dyads of young adults and their parents. Findings are discussed in terms of the elasticity in intergenerational attitude congruence in response to young adults' life course transitions. Our results suggest that intergenerational congruence in attitudes about partnership (e.g., marriage, cohabitation, divorce, women's and men's family roles) decreases after young adults have left the parental home and increases when young adults enter parenthood. Congruence concerning intergenerational obligations was not related to young adults' life course stage.

Key Words: family roles, intergenerational attitude congruence, life course theory, life events and transitions, structural equation modeling, youth or emergent adulthood.

In the present study, we examined the degree of congruence between the attitudes of parents and those of their young adult children in two domains of family life: intergenerational relations and intimate partner relationships. Attitudes toward intergenerational relations or intergenerational obligations refer to beliefs about solidarity within the extended family and include filial obligations and parental obligations. Attitudes regarding intimate partner relationships refer to beliefs about romantic relations and nuclear family configurations; they include attitudes toward alternative living arrangements and attitudes toward roles for men and women in marriage and cohabitation.

Most prior research has shown a substantial degree of parent-child attitude congruence (Acock & Bengtson, 1978; Glass, Bengtson, & Dunham, 1986; Miller & Glass, 1989; Styskal & Sullivan, 1975; Vollebergh, Iedema, & Raaijmakers, 2001). Because it provides continuity within families as well as between different generations in society, intergenerational attitude congruence or agreement is recognized as an important aspect of intergenerational solidarity (Bengtson & Roberts, 1991) and as a source of societal stability (Miller & Glass). Furthermore, congruence between adult children and their parents regarding family-related attitudes is indicative of the fulfillment of caregiving responsibilities within the family. Explanations for correspondence between the worldviews of children and those of their parents have focused on processes of transmission in which parents and children directly influence each other's attitudes (Miller & Glass; Vollebergh et al.). Also, indirect types of congruence have been identified: Education and religiosity are transmitted from parents to children, leading to attitude congruence as a by-product (Glass et al.).

Our study contributes to the existing literature on intergenerational congruence in two ways. First, most research on intergenerational congruence has focused on political and religious attitudes (e.g., Acock & Bengtson, 1978; Miller & Glass, 1989; Styskal & Sullivan, 1975; Vollebergh et al., 2001); research on attitude congruence regarding family issues is relatively scarce, with some notable exceptions (De Vries, Kalmijn, & Liefbroer, 2009; Glass et al., 1986; Mangen & Westbrook, 1988). Also, it is unclear to what extent direct and indirect types of intergenerational congruence and transmission apply to family-related attitudes. Therefore, the first aim of this study is to examine direct and indirect types of intergenerational congruence concerning family-related issues.

Second, although it is popularly believed that adolescents and young adults distance themselves from their parents and develop radically different opinions, research has shown a considerable degree of attitude congruence between parents and their children in these phases of the family life course (Acock & Bengtson, 1978; Glass et al. …

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