Images of children in Europe – a comparative survey of characteristics desired in children Nada Turnšek and Alenka Rožič
Summary: This comparative study presents data emerging from a survey on the values and attitudes of the nationals of European countries (World Values Survey, European Social Survey). From a list of children’s characteristics (independence, religious faith, thrift, unselfishness, imagination, hard work, responsibility, tolerance/respect for others, obedience, good manners and determination/perseverance), the respondents chose five that they considered to be the most important for children to learn at home from their parents. The theoretical framework of the survey mainly focuses on the theory of modernization and postmodernization (Inglehart 1995; 1997). Cluster analysis identified the existence of two patterns, each with five statistically significantly linked children’s characteristics. The prevailing images of children in Europe vary on a continuum from the traditional-religious pattern of children’s characteristics to the postmodern pattern. The characteristics desired in children are significantly linked with the materialistic/post-materialistic orientation of the respondents and their subjective evaluations of the quality of life (life satisfaction, health, happiness, and trust in people). The Slovenian respondents’ selection of children’s qualities differs from both the postmodern and traditionalreligious patterns; the image of a child who is above all independent, determined and persevering is recognized. The Slovenian respondents’ level of education, age, and income are factors with a major impact on their image of children, while their materialistic/post-materialistic orientation, political determination, and gender have a smaller impact.