Political Science

Second Major

Education (Elementary and Secondary)


Hutchison, Marc

Advisor Department

Political Science




political socialization, foreign policy


A variety of agents aid in the political socialization process. Political socialization is the inheritance of political attitudes, beliefs, and values that explain one’s interaction with the political world (Riccards, 1973, p. 8). Parents, here meaning the primary caregivers of the child, however, are generally the earliest socializing agents in an individual’s life. The effect of parents on their children’s political views is both pro- found and lasting. Indeed, a child is more likely to “inherit” the party preference of their parents “than they are to inherit any other social predisposition except religion” (Riccards, 1973, p. 40). In the early, formative years, the primary relationships dictate political development. During the formative years, when the family is the single most important agent in the child’s life, much of the political learning is indirect and unintentional (Dawson & Prewitt, 1969, p. 204). The child will imitate his family members’ political values and behaviors in “his desire to be like those he looks up to” (Dawson & Prewitt, 1969, p. 205-06). As a result, “[p]olitical friends and enemies are formed long before the child fully understands what interest or policy differences actually divide them, and may persist long after such interests or policies” are under- stood (Dawson & Prewitt, 1969, p. 48). In a political system, such as is found in the United States, party identification typically results in a lifetime attachment. In such a system, children tend to both adopt and adhere to their parents’ party identification (Ventura, 2001, p. 667). The family therefore plays a dominant role in the political so- cialization of a child because of the time they spend with the child. Kenneth Langton conducted a study after which he found about 80% of his respondents shared their parents’ political party preference (Langton, 1969, p. 53). Though political socialization theorists have considered both individual and system- atic influences on the development of political ideologies, they have only explored domestic policy. Until now researchers have focused on the result of political social- ization regarding domestic politics and policies. Their work has not explored the pos- sibility of parents having the same level of impact on their children’s views regarding international relations and policies. The focus of my work is on parental influence on political socialization in the realm of international politics. The study is modeled after the work done previously by political socialization theorists, though with additional questions focused on international relations. I control for other socializing agents including schools, geographical location, and religious institutions to isolate the parental influence as much as possible. With the recent actions taken by Russia regarding Crimea and the Ukraine, I expect to find some Cold War feelings that would otherwise be dormant having resurfaced. Certain feelings about the former Soviet Union, and by extension the current Russian Federation, may have been transmitted indirectly and directly from parent to child. I expect these transmitted feelings to be linked to the emotions students taking the survey have observed in their parents. The students, never having experienced the Cold War, will only know about it through what they have been told and the political feelings and emotions they have gleaned from political socializing agents. If parents have a similar effect on attitudes and preferences relating to international politics as they do on domestic ones, they are likely to have either directly or indirectly in- fluenced the emotions of their children regarding a variety of international issues, including the current events involving Russia.