The Journal of Politics


Politics across Generations: Family Transmission Reexamined

M. Kent Jenningsa1, Laura Stokera2 and Jake Bowersa3

a1 University of California, Santa Barbara

a2 University of California, Berkeley

a3 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


We use longitudinal data incorporating three generations of Americans to reevaluate the character and consequences of political socialization within the family. Findings about parental influence based on youth coming of age in the 1990s strongly parallel those based on youth socialized in the 1960s. As expected on the basis of social learning theory, children are more likely to adopt their parents’ political orientations if the family is highly politicized and if the parents provide consistent cues over time. The direct transmission model is robust, as it withstands an extensive set of controls. Early acquisition of parental characteristics influences the subsequent nature of adult political development.

(Received May 30 2008)

(Accepted November 22 2008)


M. Kent Jennings is professor of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106.

Laura Stoker is associate professor of political science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720.

Jake Bowers is assistant professor of political science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801.