Jennings, Elyse A., William G. Axinn, and Dirgha J. Ghimire. 2012. “The Effect of Parents’ Attitudes on Sons’ Marriage Timing.” American Sociological Review 77(6):923-945.
Theories of family stability and change, demographic processes, and social psychological influences on behavior all posit that parental attitudes and beliefs are a key influence on their children’s behavior. We have evidence of these effects in Western populations, but little information regarding this social mechanism in non-Western contexts. Furthermore, comparisons of mothers’ and fathers’ independent roles in these crucial intergenerational mechanisms are rare. This article uses measures from a 10-year family panel study featuring independent interviews with mothers and fathers in rural Nepal to investigate these issues. We test the association of specific attitudes, rather than broad ideational domains, about childbearing and old-age care with sons’ subsequent marriage behavior. Our results indicate that both mothers’ and fathers’ attitudes have important and independent influences on sons’ marriage behavior. Simultaneous study of both parents’ attitudes reveals that gender-specific parenting contexts can shape the relationship between parental attitudes and children’s behaviors. This crucial mechanism of intergenerational continuity and change is strong in this non-Western setting, with substantial implications for studies of intergenerational influences on behavior in all settings.