Edited By Esther Thorson, Mitchell S. McKinney and Dhavan Shah
Chapter Ten: Talking Politics at the Dinner Table: The Effects of Family Political Communication on Young Citizens’ Normative Political Attitudes
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Talking Politics AT THE Dinner Table
The Effects of Family Political Communication on Young Citizens’ Normative Political Attitudes
BENJAMIN R. WARNER AND COLLEEN WARNER COLANER
In Habermas’s (1962) foundational work on the public sphere, he identified the family as a vital institution in the rise of the bourgeois public sphere in 17th-century Europe. Communication in the home trained people in rational critical debate, he argued, and this debate became the foundation of the public sphere. Habermas chronicled the transformation of the family from a social unit to a more exclusively private space and lamented that this transition contributed to the decline of deliberative democracy.
Since Habermas’s (1962) original theorizing, many scholars have demonstrated the enduring significance of the family in training and socializing citizens into public civic life (McDevitt & Chaffee, 2002; McDevitt & Ostrowski, 2009; Shah, McLeod, & Lee, 2009). This study examines the role of family communication about politics on the formation of normative political attitudes that are among the most important variables in determining whether children will become active and engaged citizens. Specifically, this study seeks to determine the role of parent-child political communication in forming interest in politics, political information efficacy (PIE), and political cynicism. In what follows, research on family political socialization is briefly summarized, and a study is presented that examines parent/child dyads to determine the influence of family communication on normative political attitudes in young adults....
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