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Intergenerational Transmission

Cultural Transmission: Values, Norms, And Beliefs

The intergenerational stake hypothesis (Bengtson and Kuypers 1971) maintains that children and parents have different expectations and understandings of the filial relationship. While parents are concerned with the continuity and intergenerational transmission of values they have found important in life, children focus on the differences in the two generations' value systems in an attempt to establish independence from their parents.

The importance of gender differences in the intergenerational transmission of roles is highlighted in Alice Rossi's (1993) study on the application of the intergenerational stake hypothesis in a study comparing men and women. Rossi notes two key reasons why women have a greater investment in maintaining relationships with their children than do men. First, women function as primary family caregivers in later life. Second, different socialization experiences result in motherhood assuming a more central role in the lives of women than fatherhood does in the lives of men; that is, as women are socialized to be more expressive than men and are more likely to assume the "kin-keeper" role in the family.

In addition to gender, ethnicity is another important factor in the investigation of intergenerational transmission over the life course. For example, much research on Asian immigrant family values has been based on the conception of Asian North Americans as having ideal families. This conception has emerged from the "model minority" myth, a stereotype that attributes the educational and occupational success of Asian North Americans to adherence to traditional Asian cultural value systems (Takaki 1989). The ideal family myth Research on intergenerational transmission has yet to fully explore grandparent-grandchild relationships, which may have a greater potential for the transfer of generation-distinct information. MICHAEL S. YAMASHITA/CORBIS assumes that Asian North Americans, regardless of generation or ethnocultural group, greatly revere older family members and feel strongly obligated to provide support to them (Ishii-Kuntz 1997; Osako 1979). Asian–North American families are believed to have been particularly successful in the intergenerational transmission of the values associated with reverence for elders and filial piety.

Yoshinori Kamo and Min Zhou (1994) attributed the prevalence of Asian-American coresidence among married adult children and older parents to the strong influence of filial obligation. Co-residence, however, is only an example of behaviorally oriented and intergenerationally transmitted values of filial piety (Sung 1995); that is, coresidence alone does not provide support for the hypothesis that Asian–North American adult children necessarily provide more love and affection (emotionally oriented filial piety) to their aging parents than do adult children in other ethnic groups. In addition, these findings do not take into account generational differences in the intergenerational transmission and retention of traditional values in post-immigrant Asian–North American families.

An early example of intergenerational value transmission research, Minako Maykovich's (1980) study of acculturation and familism in three generations of Japanese Canadians, found significant intergenerational differences in the retention of traditional family values. Her conclusions support Gordon's theoretical proposition that acculturation is a multiphase process, whether it is measured by the retention of traditional familism or the adoption of "new world" values. Similarly, Pamela Sugiman and Harry Nishio's (1983) study of socialization and cultural duality among aging Japanese Canadians concludes that, in contrast to the traditional age-related norms of the issei (first generation), middle-aged nisei (second generation) parents demonstrate a decreased dependence on their children for support in later life. Victor Ujimoto (1987) attributes this change in support expectations to generational differences in the retention of traditional first generation values.

In a study on intergenerational relationships in Japanese-Canadian families, an exploration of the factors affecting social support from children to parents, Karen Kobayashi (2000) finds that adherence to the traditional issei value of oya koh koh (filial obligation) has a significant effect on children's provision of emotional support to parents in later life families. She concludes that despite the cultural transformation of values such as oya koh koh by successive generations of nisei and sansei children, filial obligation still remains important in the decision-making process around support for aging parents.

According to Tamara Hareven (1994), generational differences in value perceptions are due to changes in the timing of life-course events for parents and children. Instead of timing events in concert with the family's collective needs, children now display a more individualized timing regulated to their specific age norms. Hareven's (1994) research indicates that if parents and children have a strong filial relationship characterized by satisfaction on the part of both parties, it is more likely that children will use the collective needs of the family to guide the timing of their life-course events and hence, minimize the differences in value system perceptions. This may be especially true in adult children's adherence to filial obligation.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelatives & Extended FamilyIntergenerational Transmission - Cultural Transmission: Values, Norms, And Beliefs, Social Support, Intergenerational Solidarity, Limitations