An Analysis of the Relationship between Students' Political Position and the Extent to Which They Deviate from Parents' Position1


  • 1

    This research was supported by an NIMH Predoctoral Research Fellowship to the first author and by funds from the University Research Committee, UCLA. Data analysis was conducted with the support of the facilities of the UCLA Campus Computing Network.

Child Study Center, University of Denver, Denver, Col. 80210.


Alternative interpretations of the relationship between college students' and parents' political positions were investigated. As in previous research, parents' and students' political positions were positively correlated. However, present results additionally indicated that left-(compared to right-) wing students were more discrepant from parents' political position, while left- (compared to right-) wing parents were less discrepant from offspring. This was interpreted as reflecting differences between student and parent political position distributions. Results raise doubts about the common hypothesis drawn from the literature that left-wing students are directly socialized and supported by their parents and that family conflict reported by left-wing students reflects certain attributes of their liberal homes rather than objectively greater disagreement. Results also fail to support the “generational conflict” hypothesis that left-wing students are in rebellion against their parents. Instead emphasis is placed on the role of the college Zeitgeist in the development of the students' views, and on the inter-action of the Zeitgeist with family background.