The transmission of party identification from parent to child is one of the most important components of political socialization in the United States. Research shows that children learn their party identification from their parents, and parents drive the learning process. The vast majority of studies thus treats children as passive recipients of information and assumes that parent-child concordance equals transmission. Rather than relying on a single pathway by which parents teach children, we propose an alternative view by focusing on children as active agents in their socialization. In so doing, we introduce a two-step model of transmission: perception then adoption. Utilizing two unique family-based studies that contain self-reported measures of party identification for both parents and children, children’s perceptions of their parents’ party affiliations, and measures of the parent-child relationship, we find children differentially learn and then choose to affiliate, or not, with their parents. These findings challenge several core assumptions upon which the extant literature is built, namely that the majority of children both know and adopt their parents’ party identification. We conclude that there is much to be learned by focusing on children as active agents in their political socialization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science