Parental values, beliefs, and behavior: A review and promulga for research into the new century

Duane F. Alwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


In this chapter the author reviews the research literature on parental values, beliefs and behavior over the past several decades and turns his attention to issues that can be profitably addressed in future research on this topic. This review is framed against the backdrop of the massive changes experienced by the family in its makeup and functioning over that time in Europe and North America, and the implications of these changes for understanding the lives of children and their parents. The chapter emphasizes the importance of conceptualizing values within a social psychological framework of cultural and cognitive organization, which views parental behavior as activity organized to satisfy basic material, psychological and social needs, and parental values as the standards of desirability that govern the choices that parents make in choosing approaches to child-rearing. This framework is coupled with Bronfenbrenner's conceptualization of the social environment as a dynamic set of interconnections of social settings, embedded in a multi-layered social and cultural context, that have major implications for child-rearing behavior. A review of the literature on parental values identifies several themes, particularly those having to do with socioeconomic inequalities in parental values, religio-ethnic differences in historical changes in values, and the linkages between parental values and child-rearing behavior. In particular, research has shown that there have been major changes in parental values over the past century in the direction of greater preference for autonomy versus obedience in children and that these value orientations are connected to aspects of parental styles of behavior which may also be changing in the contemporary neo-traditional family. The chapter concludes with some thoughts about how research on parenting in future years can not only benefit from what is already known, but can also be invigorated by new theoretical and methodological approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-139
Number of pages43
JournalAdvances in Life Course Research
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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