The Formation of Children’s Values in School: A Quantitative Study on the Influence of the Individual and Classroom-Related Factors on Children’s Value Priorities and Development

Promovendin: Ricarda Scholz-Kuhn
Keywords: Values, Value Formation, Primary School Children
Gutachtende: Prof. Dr. Elena Makarova, Prof. Dr. Anat Bardi
Laufzeit: HS 2020 - FS 2024

Theoretical Anchoring
The transmission of values to the next generation is a key task, both within families and the broader societal context (Roest, Dubas, & Gerris, 2009; Schwartz, 2014). Children’s values are of special importance because children, as the next generation, shape the world of the future. Children’s values are formed in a variety of social contexts and in various economic system levels (Bronfenbrenner, 1986). The proposed dissertation project will add new knowledge to the little currently known on how values develop in childhood, and especially how the micro-school-system affects children's values and their development.

The last years have seen a steep increase in research on value development from childhood to early adulthood (Döring, Daniel, & Knafo-Noam, 2016). This research highlights the impact of the larger family context (Makarova, Herzog, Weber, & Frommelt, 2018) as well as value-based educational goals on children’s value development (Döring, Makarova, Herzog, & Bardi, 2017).

Research Questions
This dissertation is embedded in the SNSF funded research project “VALISE – The Formation of Children’s Values in School: A Study on Value Development Among Primary School Children in Switzerland and the United Kingdom” (project duration: 2020-2024). By investigation the formation of children’s values in primary school, the aim is to demonstrate how key variables of the microsystem (child within classroom) affect children’s values over time (chronosystem). Thus, the proposed longitudinal study will foreground the micro- and the chronosystem. Four points of measurements across grades 1 to 2 will identify trajectories of value development in school. In addition to the development and transmission of children’s values in the primary school context, it will be analysed which key variables in a developmental psychological aspect and which aspects relevant for educational sciences (i.e., influence of teachers as socialising agents; relationships with peers and teachers) will foster the development of children’s values. The study will include longitudinal from Switzerland and cross-sectional data in the United Kingdom at T3.               

The following research questions will be analysed:

Q1. What are the value structure and priorities of primary school children of the Swiss and British sample? Do they correspond to Schwartz’s (1994) theory model?  

Q2. How do children’s values develop during the first two years of primary school?

Q3. Which key variables of the microsystem (i.e., child’s individual characteristics, relationships with teacher and peers) predict the development of value priorities of children at this young age? 

Q4. What is the relationship of value priorities and behaviours? Do particular value preferences lead to their expressive behaviour – or vice versa, value expressive behaviours predict later values?

This dissertation is part of the SNSF-funded research project VALISE - The formation of children’s values in school. The research design of the project includes a longitudinal study in Switzerland and a cross-sectional comparison with Great Britain, thus, we will assess data in these two countries from children as well as their teachers, longitudinally and cross-sectionally. Pupils complete a paper-pencil and/or digital questionnaire (i.e., on values, the school climate). Teachers will complete an online questionnaire during the same time (i.e., questions regarding their school, their teaching, their pupil’s skills, teacher’s value-related educational goals).

The field is still under-researched, and there is a lack of evidence of how children’s values develop and in what way they are formed in primary school.  This project aims to fill in this gap and demonstrate how primary schools and the school context actively shape children’s personal value development. The project aims to contribute to theory building on formation of values in the school context. This knowledge is essential for providing more detailed evidence-based guidance for values education in schools.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the family as a context for human development: Research perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22, 723-742.

Döring, A. K., Makarova, E., Herzog, W. & Bardi, A. (2017). "Parent-child value similarity in families with young children: The predictive power of prosocial educational goals." Br J Psychol 108(4): 737-756.

Döring, A. K., Daniel, E., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2016). "Introduction to the Special Section Value Development from Middle Childhood to Early Adulthood-New Insights from Longitudinal and Genetically Informed Research." Social Development 25(3): 471-481.

Makarova, E., Herzog, W., Weber, K. & Frommelt, M. (2018). Werte in der Familie: Wertevermittlung durch Erziehungsziele und Wertehaltungen der Eltern. Werteentwicklung in der Kindheit. A. K. Döring and J. Cieciuch. Warschau, Liberi Libri: 55-76.

Roest, A. M., Dubas, J. S., & Gerris J. (2010). "Value transmissions between parents and children: gender and developmental phase as transmission belts." J Adolesc 33(1): 21-31.

Schwartz, Shalom. (2014). Rethinking the Concept and Measurement of Societal Culture in Light of Empirical Findings. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 45. 5-13. 10.1177/0022022113490830.

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19–45.