There are many opinions and assumptions expressed about the state of the American family, but a three year study by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture sheds some interesting light on home life in the U.S.
The grant-funded study was not just a measure of parenting styles but looked at the complex web “of parents’ habits, dispositions, hopes, fears, assumptions, and expectations for their children,” said James Davison Hunter, executive director of the institute, and co-director of this research.
Family culture, more than parenting style, is a powerful influence on children since it is the world children are immersed in while growing up. The research points to four different types of family culture present in the U.S. today:
The Faithful (20% of American parents)
- Parent’s morals are set by long-standing traditions such as Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.
- Human nature is thought to be basically sinful and society in moral decline.
- Parents preserve their traditional values by instilling them in their children, usually with the support of a church.
- The primary parental goal is to raise children that reflect God’s laws or purpose.
The Engaged Progressives (21% of American parents)
- This family type's concept of morality revolves around individual freedom and responsibility; there are few (or no) absolutes other than the Golden Rule.
- Parents value honesty and raise their children to make responsible choices.
- The parents are politically liberal and skeptical about religion.
- Children of Engaged Progressives have more freedom at a younger age than those in the other groups.
The Detached (19% of American parents)
- Parent’s overall attitude is that kids will be kids, and whatever happens, happens; they believe their children are shaped by influences outside of parental control.
- Parents typically have blue collar jobs, no college degree, and are pessimistic about their children’s future opportunities for success.
- They have less daily interaction with their children than the other three types; family time is frequently in front of the TV.
- The parents do not monitor their children’s studies and report their grades are lower than children in the other groups.
The American Dreamers (27% of American parents)
- Generally low income households; about one half of American Dreamers are Hispanic and black families.
- Parental emphasis is on shaping their children’s moral character, protecting them from undesirable influences, and providing material and social advantages.
- They report having close relationships with their children and hope to be friends with them in adulthood.
- Parents are optimistic about their children’s potential and future opportunities.
The study involved 3,000 parents of school-aged children. They each filled out a one hour survey online. Also, 90 minute interviews were conducted with 101 of the parents surveyed. They were asked open-ended questions to determine parenting assumptions and strategies.
Source: University of Virginia; Newswise
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