Family socialisation processes in the development of political attitudes over the life course

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics


Maintaining and developing a shared political culture with shared values and beliefs is important to the maintenance of a democratic society. Previous research has noted the substantive importance of the family in the development of individual political attitudes over the life course. Processes of political socialisation from parents to child, and the relationship between institutions and changing family structures have been a growing research interest in the past twenty years, but Sapiro (2007) has indicated there is reason for renewed interest in the transmission of political values and attitudes given the dramatic change to some countries who are transitioning to democracies in the wake of dictatorships. And not only in terms of consolidating democracies, but as we witness the rise in authoritarian values and the deconsolidation of democracies, it is important to understand how these attitudes emerge.

The research problem

Adopting research by Urbatsch (2014) we can ascertain that there are four central theoretical mechanisms through which socialisation may work: direct influence; social network effects; self-interest; and personal experience (p. 71). Naturally, these mechanisms act as generalisations, however, they provide a foundation in which to discuss the development of political attitudes in relation to the life course and socialisation processes.

It is the aim of this research to examine these mechanisms further by adopting a life course approach, accounting for age, cohort and period effects at the macro level and life cycle events and aging at the individual level. In particular, the research will focus on the family as a stage in the life course and an agent of socialisation and addressthe assumptions of political socialisation, spousal influence, and parenthood.


I will utilise longitudinal data such as the British Household Panel Survey, Understanding Society, and British Election Study panel data in examining the development of political attitudes over the life course in relation to the family. The BHPS was used in one of the landmark comparative socialisation studies focused on how the process of family socialisation limits partisan choices (Zuckerman, Dasovic and Fitzgerald 2007). Moreover, I intend to strengthen my analysis by examining repeated cross-sectional data such as the European Social Survey, which also allows for cross-country analysis.

In terms of advanced statistical techniques, I hope to use models that allow the examination of individual level change over the life course, specifically multi-level models of change and sequence analysis. It is my expectation that through utilizing research and training support grants - such as spending times overseas at different institution, I will be able to develop my statistical practices further, providing a unique insight into the mechanisms of family influence on political attitudes. Current considerations for an overseas institutional visit would be a trip to the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (GESIS) which have the largest repository of longitudinal data in Europe (outside of the UK), but also excellent computational social science departments to develop my advanced statistical skills further.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1928302 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2021 Emily Sewell