From obedience to autonomy changes in traits desired in children, 1924-1978

Duane F. Alwin

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This paper presents results from a comparison of data on the traits desired in children from the Lynds' studies of Muncie (Middletown), Indiana, in the 1920s with similar data collected in a 1978 replication of the Lynds' work by Caplow et al. (1982). These results indicate that major changes have occurred in the most preferred qualities of children over this century, providing relatively strong evidence of changes in parent-child relations over this period. These patterns suggest that adult preferences for child qualities in contemporary society give more emphasis to qualities linked to the autonomy of children, whereas earlier desiderata stressed greater obedience to institutional and adult authority. These trends are interpreted in terms of changing relationships in the family and in the context of the response of the family to social, economic, and demographic changes during the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-52
Number of pages20
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1988

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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