Validating a Measure of Perceived Parent–Child Political Socialization

Published date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2020, Vol. 73(3) 623 –637
© 2019 University of Utah
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912919850632
Fundamental to behavioral political science research are
processes of political socialization (Flanagan 2004;
Terriquez 2011; Westheimer and Kahne 2004). Following
the so-called “death” of socialization research in the
1970s (Niemi and Hepburn 1995), scholars breathed new
life into the topic, advancing classic “top-down,” parent-
to-child transmission models (Gidengil, Wass, and
Valaste 2016; Jennings, Stoker, and Bowers 2009;
Rosenstone and Hansen 1993; Verba, Schlozman, and
Brady 1995; Verba, Schlozman, and Burns 2005). A core
assumption of classic models is that parents know their
country’s political system and transfer their politics to
their children. However, disparate lines of political
socialization research show that the degree of inculcation
and political sophistication among parents varies by
socioeconomic status (SES) (McDevitt and Chaffee
2000, 2002) and immigration experience (Garcia-
Castanon 2013; Terriquez and Kwon 2015; Wong and
Tseng 2008). Moreover, increasing economic inequality
in America (Gould 2018) and the growing share of
American children born to immigrants (Zong and
Batalova 2017) indicates that “top-down” models may be
less adequate, and offer less accuracy, for understanding
the full range of political socialization experiences in the
twenty-first century. Considering the diversity in baseline
political interest and knowledge among individuals,
scholars developed models of “trickle-up” or child-to-
parent transmission. In these models, children are re-
imagined as influencers in their social networks (McDevitt
and Chaffee 2002; Ojeda and Hatemi 2015; Terriquez and
Kwon 2015; Wong and Tseng 2008). Corroborating the
conceptual model of child-to-parent transmission is evi-
dence that children who live in low-SES households
(McDevitt and Chaffee 2002), as well as those whose
parents are immigrants (Wong and Tseng 2008), perform
critical “brokering” activities that boost their parents’
political knowledge and civic engagement.
The growing recognition of children and younger per-
sons as agents of influence in adult political socialization
processes reflects a broader acceptance in communica-
tion, psychology, and sociology literatures of a bidirec-
tional framework. This framework unifies the traditional
direct-transmission model with processes of child-to-par-
ent influence (Bell 1968; Knafo and Galansky 2008;
Mola and Buysseb 2008). However, the literature remains
theoretically unclear about whether those influences are
complimentary or competitive. Furthermore, efforts to
import the concept of bidirectional influence to models of
political attitudes and behavior have proceeded without a
measure that adequately captures the influence of both
parents and children (Knafo and Galansky 2008; Paschall
and Mastergeorge 2016).
850632PRQXXX10.1177/1065912919850632Political Research QuarterlyPedraza and Perry
1University of California, Riverside, USA
2Texas A&M University, College Station, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brittany N. Perry, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M
University, 2114 Allen Building, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
Validating a Measure of Perceived
Parent–Child Political Socialization
Francisco I. Pedraza1 and Brittany N. Perry2
A growing body of research in political science is influenced by conceptual advances in socialization theory which
posit that children can influence adults’ learning across a wide range of topics. The concept of bidirectional influence
describes socialization led by one’s parents and children. One outstanding need in the effort to import this concept
to political socialization research is a measure that captures the influence of both parents and children. We meet this
need with a measure of relative influence from both parents and children as sources for political learning. We provide
evidence of measurement validity using separate samples of Asians, Blacks, Latinos, and Whites. Our findings suggest
that our metric is portable across groups, and that the range of what individuals recall about their familial socialization
experience includes more child-to-parent influence than existing studies suggest.
political socialization, bidirectional learning, measurement validation

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