Does the Apple Fall Far From the Tree? Parent-Child Similarities in Attitudes

father and son

Father and son. How do they look alike?

This article considers a strongly disputed topic in social psychology: the formation of attitudes, prejudices, and stereotypes. A new meta-analysis by Degner & Dalege (2013) synthesizes the evidence for the past 60 years, and it is a rather exhaustive analysis that includes 131 studies of over 45,000 parent-child dyads.

The meta-analysis found a significant positive relationship between the attitudes of the parents and the attitudes of the children. This means that parental attitudes are influencing the formation of attitudes in children. This fact goes hand in hand with the theory proposed by social psychologist Allport, whose theory, among others, is described beneath.

Degner & Dalege (2013) emphasize that Allport (1954) distinguished between two socialization processes, in which attitudes are adopted. The first one is the direct transfer of attitudes by words and gesture that the parent does.

The second process is that the child develops attitudes through the parent’s creation of an atmosphere. For example, an authoritarian upbringing can make the child develop attitudes, where hierarchy is perceived as the standard for social relations.

Another interesting theory is proposed by Devine (1989) who assumes that children adopt stereotypes through common socialization experiences before they have their cognitive abilities developed, and this will make the children adopt attitudes uncritically because of their immature cognitive processing skills.

In the social identity theory by Nesdale (1999), he assumes that these cognitive abilities for social categorization, self-identification, and social comparison are being developed at the age of 5 to 6 years.

Image: Nathan Congleton