Families: Study Finds Four Kinds of “Home Cultures” in America

Tip Estes and his family eating dinner, 1937. Photographer: Lee Russell. Library of Congress, LC-USF34- 010580-D [P&P].

The success of various parenting styles, from helicopter to free-range, is often debated. A new study by researchers at the University of Virginia finds more fundamental differences in family culture that are shaping today’s children.

The Culture of American Families Project—co-directed by James Davison Hunter and Carl Desportes Bowman at the university’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, and funded by the John Templeton Foundation—has identified four “home cultures” that make up 87 percent of families with school-age children: the Faithful, Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and American Dreamers. The data is based on a nationwide survey of 3,000 parents as well as longer follow-up interviews with 101 respondents.

“Though largely invisible, these family cultures are powerful, constituting the worlds that children are raised in, and may well be more consequential than parenting styles,” [Davison] said.

via U.Va. Study Identifies Four Family Cultures in America | UVA Today.

(I do wonder about the other 13 percent of families that didn’t fit neatly into one of these four groups. But let’s continue.)

More details on the project can be found in the executive report. Here are brief descriptions of each family type:

The Faithful (20 percent of American parents)

“The defining feature of the Faithful is that ‘morality’ is understood to be received from a divine, external source, whether within a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim tradition,” the report states.

Faithfuls tend to be politically conservative (51 percent Republican versus 13 percent Democrat), strongly oppose gay marriage, and attend religious services weekly. They believe their own children share their moral codes, though almost half of them report an overall decline in American standards.

Engaged Progressives (21 percent)

“At the center of the Engaged Progressives’ moral universe stands the virtue of personal freedom,” the report states. “With freedom comes choice and, by implication, responsibility for the consequences of one’s choices.”

They are the least religious of the four cultures; two-thirds say religion is not important to them. Although they hesitate to punish their children, 93 percent say they “invest much effort in shaping [their] moral character,” hoping they will grow into adults who treat others well. They typically let their teens have access to birth-control information at an earlier age. Continue reading