Introduction to the Special Section Value Development from Middle Childhood to Early Adulthood—New Insights from Longitudinal and Genetically Informed Research

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Abstract

Research into values at an early age has only started recently, although it has expanded quickly and dynamically in the past years. The purpose of this article is twofold: First, it provides an introduction to a special section that aims to help fill the gap in value development research. The special section brings together four new longitudinal and genetically informed studies of value development from the beginning of middle childhood through early adulthood. Second, this article reviews recent research from this special section and beyond, aiming to provide new directions to the field. With new methods for assessing children's values and an increased awareness of the role of values in children's and adolescents' development, the field now seems ripe for an in-depth investigation. Our review of empirical evidence shows that, as is the case with adults, children's values are organized based on compatibilities and conflicts in their underlying motivations. Values show some consistency across situations, as well as stability across time. This longitudinal stability tends to increase with age, although mean changes are also observed. These patterns of change seem to be compatible with Schwartz's (1992) theory of values (e.g., if the importance of openness to change values increases, the importance of conservation values decreases). The contributions of culture, family, peers, significant life events, and individual characteristics to values are discussed, as well as the development of values as guides for behavior.

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