The Intergenerational Transmission and "Moralization" of Appearance and Achievement Values and Their Influence on Children's Contingencies of Self-Worth

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Children's internalization of parental values is differentially influenced by discipline and parent-child relationship quality. Beyond simply affecting values, parents can influence the development of underlying belief structures children use to make sense of behaviors and attributes. Parental values might lead children to experience domains as differentially important and then use this structure when building and judging the content of their self-concept. The intergenerational transmission of values may therefore also differentially influence appraisals of the self. Crocker and colleagues (e.g. Crocker, Sommers, & Luhtanen, 2002) present a model of self-esteem that emphasizes "contingencies of self-worth", which are domains on which individuals stake self-esteem. Although the existence of contingencies of self-worth (CSW) has been supported, their origin has not been addressed. This dissertation is a preliminary investigation into the origins of CSW. It is proposed that early adolescents' CSW will reflect parents' values in domains that carry a 'moral' weight due to parental socialization. The domains of physical appearance and academic achievements were of particular interest. Participants were 127 early adolescents (51% female) and their parents (102 mothers, 62 fathers) recruited from three populations in an effort to sample individuals for whom appearance and academics are differentially salient. Youth and parents each completed questionnaires addressing self-concept/self-esteem, CSW, parenting style, parent-child relationship, and domain-specific beliefs and behaviors. Results indicated that more negative ratings of transgressions in traditionally moral domains (kindness and honesty) as well as the non-traditional domain of academics were associated with higher ratings for these domains on the CSW. Parental discipline moderated the association between parents' and adolescents' ratings of transgressions in kindness, honesty, and academics, and parenting style and parent-child relationship quality moderated the association between parents' domain values and adolescents' domain ratings on the CSW. This suggests that the internalization of moral standards influences developing self-structure and that a domain that is not traditionally considered 'moral' can be raised to a 'moral' level. The results also indicate that parental socialization influences the importance adolescents' place on given domains when evaluating self worth and developmental theories regarding socialization of traditional values can also be used to understand the transmission of non-traditional values.






Quinlan, Nicole Polanichka (2008). The Intergenerational Transmission and "Moralization" of Appearance and Achievement Values and Their Influence on Children's Contingencies of Self-Worth. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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