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Internalized attitudes are among the most powerful influences on the development of our values, according to a new study by the University of Sydney’s School of Social Sciences.
The sociology of inner-city children and young adults was developed as part of the University’s Global Change Research Institute (GCRI) programme to identify the connections between human capital and social capital, and how the two can be understood in relation to each other.
“These findings show that we are far more likely to develop values and values systems that are rooted in what we have experienced and the circumstances in which we were born,” Professor Mark Salthouse, who led the research project, said.
“Our research shows that our internalized values systems, which are often shaped by a parent’s influence on the child, are also shaped by social conditions in which they grow up.”
The study’s findings are based on data from the Global Change Database on social capital (GCDB), a national survey of about 1,000 people in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
“We have the largest GCDB of any social science survey in the world, and our results reveal that children born to immigrant parents have significantly more internalized social attitudes than their non-immigrant counterparts,” Professor Salthousse said.
Internalized values are often embedded in family and community traditions, beliefs, practices and norms.
“For example, in the study, when parents are present and the child is in the household, they are more likely than the children of other parents to have a strong attachment to a tradition or belief that has become part of their culture,” Professor Raelle Lecomte said.
The study, conducted by Professor Mark Lecome and colleagues at the University, looked at the internalization of social values and the impact of this on children’s development.
“Children who grow up in homes that are less connected to traditional family and cultural practices and less connected with their peers are less likely to be socialized to internalize those values,” Professor Lecoma said.
This study has implications for many other social policy issues, Professor Leloma said, including the impact on children of domestic violence, which is often seen as a parent-child issue.
“It’s also relevant to the development and implementation of public policies to promote gender equity and promote self-sufficiency in food and other products,” she said.
Professor Lelomas findings are the first of their kind to identify a direct link between the development or internalization and the social capital of the child.
“When a child grows up in a home that is more connected to family and the community, they have a stronger sense of self and are more attuned to the value system that has been shaped by the child,” she added.
“This suggests that the child may become more attune to their own values and to their parents’ values in order to be more attemperative about self-worth.”
Professor Lecomes study also found that the extent of internalized negative attitudes varied across social class.
“Social class has a very large influence on children,” Professor C.N. Dhillon, Professor of Social Development at the School of Education and Australian National University, said in a statement.
“But the degree to which children feel that they are socially disadvantaged has also increased over the last few decades, particularly in terms of the social networks they have in their lives.”
Importantly, this pattern is particularly pronounced among children of migrant parents, where children are also more attunned to their immigrant parents’ beliefs.
“Professor Dhillons research also found a strong link between positive and negative self-efficacy measures, which were measured by the number of positive and positive self-reported thoughts about themselves.”
The findings indicate that children who have higher levels of internalizing attitudes and self-reliance are more self-disciplined, which may be related to higher levels in self-confidence,” Professor Dhillones co-author, Professor R.P. Nair, said, in a release.”
Parents can help their children develop positive self image through positive communication and positive behaviour strategies.
“The research was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.