ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2013, Vol. 45 ›› Issue (3): 336-344.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00336

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Trust: Parents’ Similarity and Parent-Child Transmissibility

CHI Liping   

  1. (School of Child Development and Education, China Women’s University, Beijing 100101 China)
  • Received:2012-06-15 Published:2013-03-20 Online:2013-03-20
  • Contact: CHI Liping

Abstract: Previous studies on intergenerational transmission found that parents could transmit some of their characteristics, values and behaviors to their children. Some researchers concluded that the level of parent’ interpersonal trust might correlate to that of their child, that is, there exists intergenerational transmission of interpersonal trust. However, few studies have found evidence for the conclusion or hypothesis. Recently, a study conducted in Germany found that father and mother had the similar level of trust and this positive assortative mating reinforced the impact of parents on children. By now, no empirical research has been done in China to examine the relationship of father’s and mother’s trust level, and intergenerational transmission of trust. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate how parents’ trust correlate to each other and predict their child’s trust. Research in this aspect may shed light on the family origins of people’s interpersonal trust. Based on a Chinese sample of 116 parents-child pairs, the present study aimed to examine whether there was significant similarity of father’s and mother’s interpersonal trust in the same family, and whether parents’ trust could be transmitted to their children or not. The study collected participants’ responses to trust game presented in a questionnaire so as to measure their interpersonal trust. Each child participant was asked to decide how many chocolates would he or she like to send a strange child and to guess how many chocolates would the strange child return to him or her after receiving participant’s chocolates. Each parent participant was also asked the similar questions, except that what being sent and returned were not chocolates but money. Both the numbers of chocolates the child participant sending and estimating to be returned were the indices of interpersonal trust. In the same way, both the amounts of money the parent participant sending and estimating to be returned was used to measure the level of interpersonal trust. The results showed that (1) children and their fathers and mothers exhibited trust to some extent in the investment game. (2) There was a significant positive correlation between the levels of father’s and mother’s interpersonal trust (i.e., a kind of intragenerational similarity), except that the estimated amounts of being returned of boys’ fathers and mothers were not correlated. (3) Gender of the child impacted on the strength of intergenerational transmission. Parents’ trust could not predict daughter’s trust; whereas they did for sons. The transmission patterns of father and mother were different: the relationship of father’s and son’s trust levels fit a positive quadratic model but data of mother’s and son’s trust fit a negative quadratic model. The present study has potentially important implications for understanding the mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of interpersonal trust, and it sheds light on the basic question of where trust comes from.

Key words: trust, intragenerational similarity, intergenerational transmission, investment game