Intergenerational transmission of social attitudes in a detraditionalized society
Sociology Vrije Universiteit Brussel Brussels, Belgium
The family was once considered to be the main socialization agent. But due to demographic and social evolutions, doubts arose whether parents still have an influence on their children and on their values in particular. The loss of parental influence is supported by the individualization thesis as formulated by Beck. Parents have lost impact on their children, and this will certainly be the case in broken families. In this paper, we want to confront the individualization thesis with a thesis that postulates the rise of a more "symbolic" society. This thesis states that we experience a shift in the forms of social control, in which traditions, explicit rules, external authority and the disciplining function of scarcity lose importance. However, this increasing freedom to choose is paralleled by increasingly advanced attempts of social institutions to influence the decision-making process from the inside. In this new modus of control different socializing agents are involved, and all operate via symbolic mediation. Powerful socialization agents are therefore education and mass media. This does not mean however that parents have lost their impact. Attitude similarity can according to this theory partly be ascribed to the fact that parents guide their children towards these socialization channels that are relevant in the development of attitudes.
We will therefore test the impact of parents on their children?s attitudes in a broader way than is usual. Not only will we look at the similarities in attitudes between parents and their children or study how socio-economic conditions influence the attitudes of both parents and children, but we will also study cultural mechanisms: how do parents influence their children´s attitudes by guiding them towards specific educational and media "choices"? The transmission of four attitudes (attitudes towards ethnic minorities, attitudes towards criminality, attitudes towards democratic institutions and principles, and individualism) will be analyzed by means of structural equation modeling. A comparison will be made between intact and broken families. This will be done on the basis of a survey held in Flanders (Belgium) in 2000, containing information on 6.974 youngsters of approximately 16 to 18 years old and one of their parents.