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The Role of Child Perception and Motivation in Political Socialization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Peter K. Hatemi*
Department of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Christopher Ojeda
Department of Political Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Most of what is known regarding political socialization treats parent–child concordance as evidence of transmission. This direct-transmission approach remains agnostic regarding how socialization occurs, whether traits have a role in a child's ability to identify and understand their parent's values or their motivation to adopt their parents’ values. This article advances a perception-adoption approach to unpack these microprocesses of socialization. The authors test their model using three independent studies in the United States that together comprise 4,852 parent–child dyads. They find that the transmission of partisan orientations from parent to child occurs less than half the time, which is qualitatively different from the generally held view. More importantly, the findings provide a greater understanding of how key predictors facilitate the political socialization process. Specifically, politicization improves child perception, but has no role in the child's motivation to adopt parental values. Closeness and parental value strength influence children to want to be like their parents, but do nothing to improve children's ability to recognize their parents' values. And education, previously thought to have little role in transmission, does not influence a child's ability to understand their parent's affiliation, but appears to make children more likely to reject whatever they believe it to be.

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