Work Value Transmission from Parents to Children: Seeds That Sprout in Adolescence and Bear Fruit in Adulthood

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:30
Oral Presentation
Monica Kirkpatrick JOHNSON, Washington State University, USA
Jeylan MORTIMER, University of Minnesota, Department of Sociology, USA
Jutta HECKHAUSEN, University of California at Irvine, USA
Using longitudinal data from the Youth Development Study, this paper examines the transmission of intrinsic and extrinsic work values from parents to children during an extensive developmental period from mid-adolescence to adulthood. Three theoretical models are investigated: a socialization model that highlights communication between parent and child during adolescence; a selection model that examines youths’ occupational choices and experiences as mediating parental value transmission; and an activation model that emphasizes the increasing salience and application of parental values when offspring engage with the demands and vicissitudes of careers. Parents and children were both surveyed when the children were adolescents, starting in 1988. After high school, children were surveyed five times at 5-6 year intervals up to the age of 37-38 (2011). This analysis draws on data from 796 mother-child and 628 father-child dyads. Although parental values were measured more than two decades earlier, we find the strongest associations of parent and child values when the offspring were in their late 30’s. Extensive multivariate analyses show support primarily for the activation model, indicating that parent-child value similarity is especially strong when adults navigate career uncertainty and change. Evidence of ongoing socialization into adulthood as parents and adult children discuss important decisions is documented as well. The findings reinforce the importance of extending research on vocational development and intergenerational value transmission well into adulthood. They also indicate the merits of extending the research purview to other vocationally-relevant orientations. Do parents transmit their job satisfaction, work commitment, and job insecurity to their children, in ways that may reinforce or counteract lessons from their adult children’s own work experiences? We hope that the findings of this study, which may be the first to examine parents’ continuing influence on children’s work values from adolescence to adulthood, will inspire future research to examine these possibilities.