Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Materialism, Gender, and Family Values in Europe1

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Materialism, Gender, and Family Values in Europe1

Article excerpt


Ideational change, along with institutional reforms, economic development, and political cuture, has been posited as one of sveral key factors behind the shipping family and fertility behaviors of the past century (Thomton and Philipov 2009; Lesthaeghe 1983, 1995; Baohrach 2001). Starting in North-Western Europe in 1960s and spreading through Central and Eastern Europe, changing attitudes about women's roles and inrreased tolerarce of no-aenvanticraL family foms have accompanied reduced fertility rates and increasing rates of marital dissolution (Van de Kaa 2001; Preston 1986; Cleland 1985; Surkyn and Lesthaeghe 2004) . Although the relationship between family values and behaviors is recognized as reciprocal (Thornton, Axinn, and Hill 1992) , a main research focus has been an values as driving factors behind fertility and fanily behaviors, with less attention to identifying macro and micro factors associated with family and parenthood values.

This paper cantributes to knowledge about the formation and continuation of family values by investigating whether the tendency to express traditional views about family is associated with irdividuals' adherence to "taterialist" or "post materialist" views (Inglebert 1971) . Specifically we ask whether there is a significant relationship between a person's materialist value and his or her willingness to approve of non-traditional views about family ferns. Because we suspect that gendered socialization and social norms influence family values and materialist values, as well as their relationship, we pose cur question for separate samples of women and men. We also investiate whether socio-cultural, political-economic, and historical contexts influence family values above and beyond one's materialist values. Insults suggest that the relationship between naterialisn and fractional family values varies ky gender and the particular fanily value in question, and that geopolitical boundaries have a strong association with family values.


lhgiehart (1971) first famously rypothesized trat lack of economic scarcity during childhood encourais fornation of pcst-natedalist values, such as the inpcrtance cf individual rights and freedom, which then promote acceptance of non-traditional family forms and parenthood. In other words, when basic survival is not an ever-present worry during formative years, people turn attention to "higher order" concerns (Naslcw 1954) such as personal expression and fulfillment cf individual potential. Suloseouently , as defer cohorts with naterialist values Cx , primary concerns about economic security) are replaced by ycunger enes who have grown up in a "pest-scarcity society" (Giddens 1996; Bockchin 2004) , societal values become less tzaditional as a whole (Iesthaeghe and Surkyn 1388; lhglebart 1971) .

Three distinct crnpcnents cf this theory can therefore be icfentif ied. First, socialization is thought to shape the extent to wnich an individual is concerned about basic survival or "nieder order" values as an adult. Second, the extent to which one possesses materialist views is hypothesized to affect one' s values, irrilnding the level cf tolerance for non-traditicnal family forms and parenting. Third, as cohorts withpcstmaterialist values replace their deer , more conservative counterparts, a society' s values beccrre less traditional as a whole.

lhgiehart' s theory of the "silent revoluti on7' cf values has received a great amount cf attention over the decades. ífeLatively peaking, there are only a few studies which have set cut to eipárioally test the relationship between (pest-) naterialist and traditional values, and these studies tend to focus en the first cenpcnent of the theory - the relationship between economic conditions in childhood and (pest-) naterialist values ÛYarsh 1975, 1977; Iaf ferty and Knutscn 1985) . Rx example, using data from eight W estem European frcm 1973-1984, Euch and Taylor (1993, 1994) feil to find evidence of a relationship between economic security during adolescence and pcst-materialist values (see Äbramson and lhgiehart' s [1994] response) . …

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