The attribution and transmission of parent-youth attitudes during the launching stage

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Recent studies on the transmission of attitudes between parents and youths have shown that many of the contradictions of earlier research can be resolved by focusing on perceived rather than actual attitudes. The present study examined the relative value of perceived and actual attitudes in predicting attitude transmission to parents from their children as well as to youths from their parents. The study also considered the direction of misperceived attitudes ( overestimation or underestimation of differences between parents and youths) in examining the concept of "developmental stake" (Bengtson & Kuypers, 1973). Youth in the study were selected randomly from the undergraduate student body of Virginia Tech. Questionnaires were mailed to 398 mother-father-youth triads asking for personal and perceived cross-generational responses to items on eight concise, multiple-item attitude scales. Seventy percent (280) of the complete triads responded. Results from paired t-tests were mixed: parents tended to overestimate the differences between themselves and their young-adult children ( as predicted), but youths did not generally misperceive their parents' attitudes. Multiple regression analysis overwhelmingly supported the value of perceived cross-generational attitudes as predictors of the actual attitudes of youths, and reciprocally of parents. The results suggest a need to increase the variance of the Youth population and study their development longitudinally to determine the validity of the developmental stake concept.