Erin Haff has undertaken one of our most ambitious projects this summer. She has been exploring differences and similarities between American and French "family values" and their evolution across generations and the sexes. She first developed a standardized 18-point questionnaire and then conducted a long series of interviews with 8 families here in France and 13 back in the US. This is a lot of work, but Erin notes that this is still a small sampling that gives her conclusions cultural "value" without necessarily offering statistical "validity". On the basics, Americans and the French are amazingly similar. Here are six points Erin identifies as pillars of both sets of values: 1) truthfulness and honesty ; 2) respect for oneself and others ; 3) hard work done well ; 4) responsibility for one's own happiness ; 5) self-discipline ; 6) and education (in the American sense). Erin notes that word "education" in French can mean "the product of learning in school", but more often it means what a child learns in the home about social responsability. When a they French say a person lacks education, it means he or she is spoiled, impolite, or simply does not know how to behave in public. Erin suggests that the greatest differences her survey's uncover are not between American and French but actually between generations. There's a bit of paradox there, though. The older generation expresses more regard for work than for family, but is also more likely to sacrifice a job for family reasons (especially women who stay home for the children). The younger generation expresses higher regard for the family, but in practice may not actually demonstrate this through personal choice. Among the sexes, the younger generation seems less focused on sexually determined social roles. Now that's just a hint at Erin's discoveries.
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This page last updated on 2005-06-29 6:12:36 AM.