Parenting styles and values : mechanisms of intergenerational continuity and discontinuity

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Melissa Florence Littlewood (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Bruce Henderson

Abstract: Do parenting styles continue from generation to generation? It is counter-intuitive to think that parenting styles do not continue from generation to generation, yet many researchers have found this to be true (Campbell & Gilmore, 2007; Covell, Grusec, & King, 1995; Staples & Warden Smith, 1954; Woods, Glavin, & Kettle, 1960). When we look at the major events of the 20th century, such as the Great Depression, World War II, and the rise of divorce rates, we can also see changes in social behavior and family structure, either as a direct or indirect result of these major events (e.g. Elder, 1974, 1994). Americans seem to be more individualistic today than they were 75 years ago, perhaps as one of the indirect results of these major events (Stearns, 2003). Many researchers have found strong correlations between parenting styles and cultural variables, such as collectivism and individualism (Baumrind, 1991). Research on intergenerational transmissions and continuity of parenting styles, behaviors, and values within families in the past 75 years provides strong evidence that parenting styles change over time, even from generation to generation within families. Therefore the present study asks the questions, have individualistic values increased with time over the past 75 years? And, have parenting style trends gone toward emphasizing higher warmth and lower control from generation to generation? Triads of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters were used, each generation representing a different cohort (the Children of the Great Depression, Baby Boomers, and women who grew up in the 1990s). Maternal warmth and control were measured by the Parental Bonding Instrument (PBI, Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979). Individualistic values, as measured by a rank-order scale (Bengston, 1975), rose significantly from generation to generation, as did parental warmth. There was no significant difference in the use of parental control from generation to generation within these families. The present study also found that although number of hours worked per week while raising their daughters did not increase significantly from grandmothers to mothers, there did exist a significant decrease (from the grandmother generation to the mother generation) in number of nights per week families ate dinner altogether while raising their daughters. These findings support much of the research which suggests that changing views of society may play a key role in the discontinuity of parenting practices from generation to generation.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
continuity, individualism, Intergenerational, parenting, society, transmission
Child rearing
Social change

Email this document to