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Trusting Others ‐ How Parents Shape the Generalized Trust of Their Children

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

How do parents in North America inculcate generalized values about trusting others in their children? Using a self-collected data set with over 1,400 children sampled in the U.S. and Canada as well as matching surveys and selective in-depth interviews with their parents, this article attempts to link parental child-rearing approaches and values to children’s generalized trust. We find that over the last decades children increasingly score lower on generalized trust than their parents. Moreover, most parents, independent of their own trust levels, attempt to instill in their children distrust in unknown people. This trend is potentially rooted in a dramatic rise in news reporting about child crime and stranger abduction. The thesis of this article is that drastic warnings about strangers and related child-rearing methods may not remain without consequences.


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