Based on two waves of the EVS (1990-93 and 2017-20), this chapter analyses childrearing values and their change/stability throughout the last 30 years in Europe at the level of their hierarchy or preferences, as well as at the way they are organised; and secondly explores the relationships between societal factors (GDP, Social well-being and GINI) and childrearing values priorities. Results show that in both EVS waves studied a bi-dimensional structure was found: one oriented towards the endorsement of authoritarian and conservative values and another promoting the development of values oriented to autonomy and cooperation. Regarding the relationship between values salience and social factors, results suggest that economic and social development are positively associated with a preference to teach children according to the values of autonomy and independence and negatively associated with the values of authoritarianism and conservatism. Importantly, regarding the endorsement of values related with autonomy, we found that in richer countries, higher levels of inequalities are associated with a lower endorsement of autonomy values, while in poor countries such association was not found.
Values are central to life. They shape our choices, our preferences, and the way we perceive and interpret the world.1 They guide individual actions, attitudes and goals towards both personal development and social cooperation and are related to a wide range of social attitudes and behaviours, such as attitudes towards immigration (e.g. Ramos, Pereira & Vala, 2016; Davidov et al., 2020; Vala, Lima & Lopes, 2004), subjective well-being (e.g. Sagiv & Schwartz, 2000), prosocial behaviour (e.g. Schwartz, 2010), institutional trust (e.g. Ramos, Brites & Vala, 2016) and political identities (Vala & Costa-Lopes, 2012). The role that values play in the construction and maintenance of a common basis of social understanding explains why they constitute a universal dimension of parenting and education of young children.
This Chapter aims to celebrate the unique and important contribution of Loek Halman to the study of values, specifically his renowned input to the research on the relation between values and social capital (Halman & Luijkx, 2006), and social cooperation (Dekker & Halman, 2003), as well as the relation between religion and values (Halman & Petterson, 2003). The bright intellectual path of Loek contributed to the knowledge of the impact of values on the construction and maintenance of a common basis of social understanding. In the frame of a larger project that we are developing, linking the relationship between childrearing values and children’s values, the research here presented addresses childrearing values in a 30-years time span perspective.
Indeed, the last 30 years were times of turbulence in the world and in Europe. For instance, 10 years of a bloody civil war in the Balkans leading to the dissolution of Yugoslavia; the 11th September 2001; the 2008-2012 economic crisis; terrorist attacks in Europe (e.g. Paris-2015; Brussels and Nice-2016; Manchester and Baracelona-2017); the Syrian civil war in 2011; the refugee crisis in 2015. Despite de fact that theoretically values tend to be stable, it is relevant to put the question about the possible impact that events such as the ones described may have had on values priorities along time and specifically on childrearing values.
Accordingly, the present Chapter has the following aims: firstly, to analyse childrearing values and their change/stability throughout the last 30 years in Europe at the level of their hierarchy or preferences, as well as at the way they are organised; and secondly to explore the relationships between societal factors and childrearing values priorities.
The analysis of values hierarchy will be done within the framework of the association between socioeconomic development and values priorities (e.g. Inglehart, 1977). However, our proposal is to study this association in a broader perspective, taking into consideration not only the relationship between the hierarchy of childrearing values and national wealth (measured by GDP based on power purchasing parity), but also with quality of life, or social wellbeing measured by the expected years of schooling1. Besides the association with socioeconomic development, childrearing preferences will be analysed from the point of view of social inequalities measured through national income differences (Gini Index).
In order to account for possible changes in the structure and the hierarchy of childrearing values, two waves of the EVS will be analysed, the second wave (1990-93) and the fifth (2017-20).
Values priorities have been mostly seen as shaped by social and economic development in the sense that values change and social transformation can be understood as correlated processes, since technological innovation, economic growth, the expansion of schooling levels and the increase of quality of life are associated processes for the change of individual orientations resulting from the need of individuals to adapt to pressures exerted by society. These processes have been described as the emergency of a ‘civic culture’ (Almond & Verba, 1963), ‘individual modernity’ (Inkeles & Smith, 1974), or ‘modernisation’ (Inglehart, 1977). This transformation processes lead to the expansion of an ethos based on individualism, characterised by the development of personal patterns of values and norms and motivated by the need of pursuing self-actualisation and personal happiness (Arts & Halman, 2004: 27). According to these perspectives, industrialisation has produced individuals open to new ideas, who value individual initiative and who are motivated to success, but that at the same time, are concerned with quality of life and the dignity of others, have societal and environmental preoccupations and engage in human rights and peace movements (Inglehart, 1997).
However, there are also studies that contradict the theoretical assumptions of modernisation processes and put the emphasis on the nature of national institutions. For instance, while Listhaug (1990) found high levels of life satisfaction and weak religiosity among Scandinavian countries, a relationship that could easily be explained by similar economic levels and cultural contexts (supporting modernisation theory). Halman (1992) showed that there was not a uniform pattern of values in the Scandinavian countries, concluding that heterogeneous value patterns could be found in homogeneous economic and cultural contexts and that other than these factors should be considered to explain value differences. It must be noted that these findings report to values in general and not specifically to childrearing values.
Following this rationale, and regardless the debate about the direction of causality between values priorities and economic dynamics, our analysis will focus on two perspectives: one that relates economic performance to childrearing preferences, and a second one that relates these preferences to social performance. Indeed, apart from economic performance, higher prospects of education per se, that reflects a higher wellbeing, can also be related with values preferences to be encouraged in children. In sum, extending the empirical results obtained by Inglehart (1997), and Inglehart and Baker (2000), we hypothesised that in less developed societies, basic motivations and correspondent values related to individual security and the conservation of the social order are more salient and consequently more stimulated in children. In the same line, in societies with higher levels of socioeconomic development the most salient values are those that go beyond basic needs, i.e., personal development needs, mainly those related with personal autonomy and collective harmony.
This new approach relates values’ priorities to social inequalities and is supported by the main findings of Wilkinson and Pickett (2010) about the impact of social inequalities on social life. It does not put the focus simply on wealth but on the way wealth is distributed, meaning that low levels of inequality, for instance, can be found either in rich and poor countries and vice-versa. Social inequalities have negative effects in many societal dimensions, such as, physical and mental health, education, social mobility, trust and community life and child wellbeing, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). In this vein, social inequalities can hamper the pursuing of individual prospects and limit human existence to the searching of means of survival.
Specifically, the impact of social inequalities on social values was studied in the context of social dominance orientation (Kunst et al., 2017). It was shown that the support of group-based hegemony and social hierarchies was higher in societies where social inequalities were also higher. The study also showed that social dominance orientation was positively correlated with the preference for values related with the need of power and dominance, values that are opposed to universalistic values, according to the typology of Schwartz (Ramos, 2011). Consequently, we can propose that in societies with higher social inequalities, there is a higher probability to the endorsement of values related with obedience, respect for social hierarchies and conservation of social order and, consequently, these are also the values with higher probably to be taught to children. In line with this approach, and parallel to the potential association between values and socioeconomic performance, we expect the level of social inequalities to be also related to childrearing preferences in terms of values.
Data sets from the 2nd and 5th waves of the EVS were used, corresponding to a total of 85,981 respondents.
To measure childrearing preferences the following question was used: “Here is a list of qualities which children can be encouraged to learn at home. Which five would you say are the most desirable for a child to have? Please choose up to five” The list of options consisted on 11 values: ‘good manners’, ‘independence’, ‘hard work’, ‘feeling of responsibility’, ‘imagination’, ‘tolerance and respect for other people’, ‘thrift, saving money and things’, ‘determination, perseverance’, ‘religious faith’, ‘unselfishness’, and ‘obedience’.
The data analysis was performed in 2 steps: 1) analysis of values structure and hierarchy in 1990-93 and 2017-20 (hierarchical cluster for binary variables, with clustering on variables, using the between-groups linkage clustering method and the Phi 4-point dissimilarity measure); 2) Analysis of the association between value priorities and socio economic performance (measured by GDPppp and expected years of schooling) and prevalence of societal inequalities (measured by Gini Index).
As referred, from a list of eleven values that children can be encouraged to learn at home respondents were invited to select up to five. Figure 20.1 shows the percentage of times that each value was chosen in 1990-93 and 2017-20, in the 22 countries2 that participated in both EVS-waves. Not only the hierarchy is the same, as the importance attributed to each value remains equal in most cases. Nevertheless, two characteristics registered a considerable shift: ‘obedience’, that decreased 10 percentage points and ‘hard work’ that increased 7 percentage points.
Overall, having good manners, a sense of responsibility, and being tolerant and respectful are the three most important values that children must be inculcated. Being independent and hard worker are also valued, followed by being thrift with things and money, having determination and perseverance.
This is an important finding suggesting that despite the sort of social and political changes that occurred in Europe, with different impact degrees on the everyday life of the populations, the values that are considered important to transmit to the new generations are, in general, still the same as 30 years ago.
To explore the structure of childrearing values we followed the analytical strategy proposed by Tufis (2008) and ran a hierarchical cluster for binary variables, with clustering on variables, using the between-groups linkage clustering method and the Phi 4-point dissimilarity measure. Results for the 22 countries that participated in the two EVS waves are shown in Figure 20.2a and 20.2b.
As it was hypothesised, the time span between the two EVS waves did not produce changes in the 22 countries under analysis: not only the overall importance of each of the values remains similar, as its structure persists.
However, when the data obtained in all countries included in the 2017-20 wave (N=34) was subjected to the same statistical procedure something changed: the value ‘good manners’ shift from one cluster to the other one. This shift may be due to different conceptualizations of its meanings, and for that reason this item was excluded from further analyses.
Based on these results we will consider from now on two dimensions: autonomy, gathering the values of independence, imagination, determination and perseverance, feeling of responsibility, tolerance and respect and unselfishness; and authoritarianism, representing the values of hard work, thrift with money and things, religious faith and obedience. Regarding the data collected in 2017-2020, and considering the group of 34 countries, the values representing autonomy have been more chosen (M=2.84, SD=1.08) than the ones corresponding to authoritarianism (M=1.19, SD=.91). Figure 20.3 illustrates the contrast between the preferences for each of the childrearing values dimensions.
Globally, it is clear the opposing sides occupied by Eastern and Nordic countries, the first highly attached to authoritarian values and the second ones highly attached to autonomy values. In between, countries like Austria, Denmark, Spain or Slovenia appear as giving similar importance to both values dimensions. Moreover, the correlation between the two value dimensions (r (34) =-.85, p<.001) supports the theoretical assumption according to which they have opposite underlying motivations (e.g., Inglehart, 2017; Schwartz, 1992, 2012).
To analyse the relationship between economic performance and childrearing preferences we used the GDPppp (Source: World Bank; measure: US$; year 2020). Figures 20.4a and 20.4b show the associations between economic performance and the preference for values that promote autonomy and values that promote authoritarianism, respectively.
Results show a strong association between economic performance and the configuration of value patterns (r autonomy =.77, p<.001; r authoritarianism =-.84, p<.001) (Figures 20.4a and 20.4b). Countries with lower GDPppp, such as Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Belarus, North Macedonia and Serbia give less importance to the values that promote autonomy, while the richer, specially the Nordic countries, are more oriented towards the education of their children within the values of autonomy. Interestingly, the richer country of the group, Switzerland, is near other countries of the central Europe zone, namely Germany and The Netherlands, suggesting that other factors that wealth are influencing childrearing values choices. Regarding the relationship between economic performance and authoritarianism values, the arrangement of countries is almost symmetrical.
However, societal wellbeing is more than strict economic performance. For instance, higher levels of objective wellbeing are usually characterized by higher educational performance. Figures 20.5a and 20.5b represent the association between the expected years of schooling in each country and the importance attributed to both dimensions of childrearing values.
Results confirm our hypotheses, showing a pattern of associations between expectations regarding educational attainment and childrearing preferences is very similar to the one observed with the wealth of the country: the richer, namely the Nordic countries, that offer higher educational expectations score higher on autonomy and lower on authoritarian childrearing values; and the poorer countries showing the inverse pattern
(r autonomy =.79, p<.001; r authoritarianism =-.80, p<.001).
To analyse the impact of social inequalities in values orientations, we used Gini Index (UNDP 2020). Regarding the associations with social inequalities, although less strong they are statistically significant
(r autonomy =-.39, p<.05; r authoritarianism =.38, p<.05).
Observing the scatter plots it is possible to identify groups of countries that score low on autonomy and that have either low inequality levels (Slovakia and Byelorussia) or high levels of inequalities (Russia, Romania and Georgia) (Figure 20.6a). The group of Nordic countries combines the lower Gini scores and the higher adhesion to autonomy values. Regarding the adhesion to authoritarian values (Figure 20.6b) it is possible to observe a similar pattern with countries with high Gini scores (Bulgaria, Montenegro, Russia) as well as countries with low Gini scores (Slovakia, Belarus and Czech Republic) among the ones that give more importance to the transmission of authoritarian values. These results suggest an interaction between wealth and social inequalities both in the case of a) authoritarianism and b) autonomy.
In order to analyse the referred possible interaction effects, two regression analyses were performed with three independent variables (GDP, GINI and GDP*GINI), with autonomy and authoritarian values as dependent variables. Results show that only GDP is significantly associated to the adhesion of childrearing values, in the sense that the higher the GDP, the higher the adhesion to autonomy and the lower the adhesion to authoritarianism. Contrary to our hypotheses, social inequalities are not directly associated with childrearing preferences (table 20.1).
Table 20.1 Predictors of adherence to childrearing values (standardised coefficients)
Note: N=34; ***p<.001; *p<.05
Importantly, in the case of autonomy, we found an interaction effect between GDP and Gini. The decomposition of this interaction effect (Figure 20.7) shows that the moderation of economic performance (GDP) on the relationship between inequalities (Gini) and the endorsement of autonomy values is significant in richer countries (+1SD, b=-.06; SE=.02; p <.05) but not in poorer countries (-1SD, b=.02; SE=.02; p <.25). This means that in richer countries more inequalities are associated with lower endorsement of autonomy values, while in poor countries no association between these values and inequalities was found.
This Chapter aimed at analysing the structure, change and contextual predictors of parents’ preferences regarding childrearing values in Europe. We found a bi-factorial structure, opposing two contrasted dimensions of childrearing values: one oriented towards the endorsement of authoritarian and conservative principles and another promoting the development of self-oriented ideals that motivate autonomy and cooperation. This structure was found both on EVS waves of 1990-93 and 2017-2020. These are two contributions of this research to the knowledge on childrearing values: the identification of those two dimensions and the fact that they remain stable along the last thirty years.
Actually, one of the structural-theoretical assumptions of Inglehart’s model is the consideration that “traditional conformity values, which subordinate human autonomy to community discipline, tend to give way to more emancipative values that emphasise human choice” (Welzel, Inglehart, & Klingemann, 2003: 342). Indeed, according to our findings it is reasonable to interpret the two childrearing values dimensions in the same way as Hagenaars, Halman & Moors (2003) did: a continuum opposing orientations towards authority and autonomy as polar dimensions. These two dimensions have also meaningful similarities with the dichotomy that characterises the axis of Schwartz’s (1992, 2012) model that opposes conservation (values that promote security, conformity and traditional costumes and norms) to openness to change (values that match post-materialist priorities).
The third contribution of this chapter to the study of childrearing values regards the relationship between the social context and the degree of preferences for each of the two dimensions of values. Three measures of social and economic climate were used: economic performance (GDPppp), social performance (expected years of schooling) and social inequalities (Gini Index). According to Inglehart’s model, economic development shapes key human motivations that, on its turn, impact on values, for instance, shifting security and authoritarian values to autonomy ones. Our analysis intended to go a step further by considering two other contextual dimensions: social wellbeing and social inequalities.
The main findings suggest that in countries that have higher economic and social development but also where people have higher expectations of reaching a high level of formal education, there is a preference to teach children according to the values of individual autonomy and independence. Convergent with our hypothesis, we also found that countries with higher economic and social development are also the ones where the childrearing values of authoritarianism and conservatism gather lower preference.
Regarding the relationship between the level of inequalities and the propensity to teach children under the principles of each of the value dimensions considered, the direction of the relationships are similar to the ones observed with GDP and education expectations, although their strength being considerably lower, i.e the less social inequalities the higher the salience of the values related to individual autonomy and the lower the salience of authoritarian values.
More interesting to the understanding of childrearing preferences, is the interaction effect found between GINI and GDP and its impact on the endorsement of values. While the preference for teaching children under the values of respect for authority and conservatism seems to be the same in richer and poorer countries, independently of the level of inequalities, in what regards the values of autonomy our findings suggest a different tendency: in poorer countries the level of inequalities has no effect on the adhesion to autonomy values, but when low inequalities meet high socioeconomic development, the endorsement of autonomy childrearing values tend to be higher. In sum, social inequalities are a critical factor for the understanding of the influence of economic development on the adherence to childrearing autonomy values.
Note, however, that some limitations of our findings should be considered. Firstly, taking in to account that 29 out of 34 EVS countries are classified as ‘very high development countries’, we believe that these findings ask for further analysis, with more heterogeneous countries in order to deeper explore the role played by economic performance, social wellbeing and social inequalities on the preference for childrearing values. Secondly, the format of the questions creates in itself some limitations for statistical data analyses: the final product is a set of dichotomous variables that do not allow ranking the values in terms of importance. Thirdly, the values used to measure childrearing values do not stem from a specific model about values organization, which limited the scope of comparisons that could have been made between our findings and some of the best known values models in the literature (e.g. Schwartz & Inglehart).
We hope that the results here presented can contribute to place the study of the similarities and contrasts between childrearing values, children values and adult values, as well as the interactions between them. Moreover, taking into account our findings, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms that drive the effect of socioeconomic development and social inequalities on childrearing values preferences as, in the words of Stiglitz (2014: 391), “Countries also pay a high price for inequality in terms of their democracy and the nature of their societies”.
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