A study of tradition-developmental orientations of middle class mothers of teenage children



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This study focuses on the role of the middle class mother as seen from the developmental conceptual framework of family sociology. The research seeks to test (1) whether a developmental orientation to the family career Is a growing Ideology for middle class Americans, and (2) whether a mother whose orientations toward child rearing are developmental has the same sort of orientations toward her responsibilities of later years. Data for the study were obtained on questionnaires completed by forty-eight high school seniors and their mothers in La Marque, Texas. The concepts and terms used for determining the orientations and developmental tasks of the subjects were based on Evelyn Duvall's text Family Development. The first part of the research replicates in part Duvall's study in 1945. The second part explores her contrasts between the developmental and traditional orientations for mothers of teenagers. The findings from this study of mothers and their children indicate that there is some validity to the traditional-developmental continuum. People who respond to one set of questions with a developmental orientation tend to respond to another in a similar fashion. The developmental mothers share characteristics of higher socio-economic levels and greater participation in community associations. Children of these mothers tend to share their developmental orientations. There is, however, no indication that this dynamic, future-oriented philosophy is increasing in American society. A brief historical sketch of the role of women in American society is given. It is concluded that an American woman today is a part of a society that is in transition. She shares the discontinuities of rapid social change. She becomes a part of a role redefinition for her sex as her life expectancy is longer, her period of active mothering Is shortened, and the technological advances push more services away from the home. The direction of the changes in the woman's role will continue to be a part of the changes in the larger society, but the necessary psychological adjustments cay not follow the "ideal" construct of developmentalism for more than a minority of women.