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Why Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree? How Early Political Socialization Prompts Parent-Child Dissimilarity


Children are more likely to adopt their family's political views when politics is important to their parents, and the children of politically engaged parents tend to become politically engaged adults. When these transmission dynamics are considered together, an important hypothesis follows: the children who are most likely to initially acquire the political views of their parents are also most likely to later abandon them as a result of their own engagement with the political world. Data from the Political Socialisation Panel Study provide support for this hypothesis, illuminate its observational implications and shed light on the mechanisms, pointing to the role of new social contexts, political issues and salient political events. Replications using different data from the US and the UK confirm that this dynamic is generalizable to different cohorts and political periods.

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School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham (email: Fabrizio Bernardi, Cees van der Eijk, Mark Franklin, Gabor Toka and Till Weber provided very useful comments in previous versions of the article. The article was also significantly improved by suggestions made by the three anonymous reviewers and the editor. Most importantly, I am in Laura Stoker's debt for her invaluable help throughout the revision process. Most of the data analysed in the article have been made available to the scholarly community by the Inter-University Consortium for Political Research. An early version of the article was presented at the 2009 APSA annual meeting, where it was awarded the John Sullivan Prize for the best graduate student paper on an Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior Panel. The usual disclaimer applies. Data replication sets and online appendices are available at

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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