Social Structure-Personality: What is the relationship between social class and child-rearing values?

Creation Year: 


Jeffrey Lashbrook
SUNY Brockport

The sociologist, Melvin Kohn, argued that people's locations in social structures, particularly the occupational structure, influenced the values they would stress for their children because variations in structural locations exposed them to different experiences. His research, however, was done some time ago. Much has changed in our social world since then. Does the original relationship still hold?

Learning Goals


This assignment is asking you to generate statistical results, as well as to analyze and interpret the data produced. Other skills you will learn include:

  • Using software to access and analyze data
  • Identifying independent and dependent variables
  • Forming testable hypotheses using quantitative data
  • How to construct, read, and interpret bivariate tables displaying frequencies and percentages
  • Identifying population trends over time


Analytically, we will answer the following 3 questions:

  1. How important to people is stressing to their children that they think for themselves?
  2. Does social class influence this child-rearing value of thinking for yourself?
  3. Has this influence changed over time?

Other learning outcomes for this assignment include honing analytical skills associated with generating, reading, and interpreting rudimentary forms of data analysis.

Context for Use

This exercise was developed for use in an introductory sociology course. The exercise was presented as part of a unit to better understand the relationship between social class and child-rearing values. Students will analyze the relationship between two variables and fill out a table, and answer optional questions to assess their critical thinking skills.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity uses the charts, rankings and maps on The General Social Survey is an easy-to-use tool to investigate U.S. trends using census data.


References and Resources

NORC website:

Davis and Smith's "The NORC General Social Survey: A User's Guide"