This article examines a half-century of trends in family attitudes and beliefs in the United States, including attitudes toward gender, marriage, childbearing, cohabitation, sex outside marriage, divorce, and same-sex relations. These trends are viewed through the lens of developmental idealism. We also describe how the developmental idealism framework applies to Western contexts generally and the United States specifically. We trace family attitudes from the 1960s through 2018 using four data sources: the Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children, Monitoring the Future, the General Social Survey, and the International Social Survey Programme. We find profound and largely consistent changes in Americans’ attitudes. We argue these changes can be understood as the expansion of developmental idealism in the United States. Americans increasingly endorsed family attributes long understood as modern under developmental idealism, as well as attributes more recently viewed as modern through extensions of freedom and equality. At the same time, sizable majorities remained committed to marriage and children. While Americans increasingly supported all individuals’ freedom to choose among a diversity of family behaviors, most continued to view marriage and children favorably in their own lives.
Developmental Idealism and a Half-Century of Family Attitude Trends in the United States
Keera Allendorf, Linda Young-DeMarco, Arland Thornton; Developmental Idealism and a Half-Century of Family Attitude Trends in the United States. Sociology of Development 1 March 2023; 9 (1): 1–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2022.0003
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