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From Obedience to Autonomy: Changes in Traits Desired in Children, 1924-1978

Duane F. Alwin
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 52, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp. 33-52
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749110
Page Count: 20
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From Obedience to Autonomy: Changes in Traits Desired in Children, 1924-1978
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Abstract

This paper presents results from a comparison of data on the traits desired in children from the Lynds' studies of Muncie (Middletown), Indiana, in the 1920s with similar data collected in a 1978 replication of the Lynds' work by Caplow et al. (1982). These results indicate that major changes have occurred in the most preferred qualities of children over this century, providing relatively strong evidence of changes in paretn-child relations over this period. These patterns suggest that adult preferences for child qualities in contemporary society give more emphasis to qualities linked to the autonomy of children, whereas earlier desiderata stressed greater obedience to institutional and adult authority. These trends are interpreted in terms of changing relationships in the family and in the context of the response of the family to social, economic, and demographic changes during the twentieth century.

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