The Intergenerational Transmission of Socially Stratified Lifestyles

Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesisCollection of Articles


The correspondence between social class stratification and cultural lifestyles stratification is a classical area of sociological research that originates in the work of the founders of the discipline. Recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of studies analysing the associations between social class positions and cultural lifestyles. One stream of studies analyses the intergenerational transmission of lifestyles, that is, how and to what degree are lifestyles transmitted from one generation to the next, especially from parents to their children. In this dissertation, we continue and expand this work by taking a broader view on intergenerational transmission of socially stratified lifestyles. Theoretically, we draw from the literatures on stratification, socialisation, cultural reproduction, and cultural mobility. The transmission of traditional ‘highbrow’ upper-class lifestyle is well-known in the literature by now, and we contribute to this extant literature by showing that overall cultural engagement is intergenerationally transmitted. We contribute to the emerging literature on the transmission of other lifestyles beyond the more typically studied upper-class lifestyle by showing that lifestyles oriented to popular culture and to mundane culture are also intergenerationally transmitted. Contributing to the cultural mobility studies, we show that parents’ influence is long-lasting but social mobility is associated with lifestyle change, not only at the level of performing a new lifestyle publicly but at the level of personal preferences and dispositions too.

Our research questions are: (1) in what forms are lifestyles transmitted within families from parents to their children; (2) how permanent is the effect of childhood family socialisation; and (3) how does social mobility change the cultural lifestyle adopted during childhood family socialisation? We draw our data from two near- identical, nationally representative Finnish surveys conducted in 2007 and 2018. The data are analysed with various regression analysis techniques and other auxiliary quantitative methods.

We present six main results. Firstly, overall cultural engagement, in this case the total volume of cultural participation, is intergenerationally transmitted from parents to their children. Secondly, more specific patterns of lifestyles – that we call highbrow, popular, and crafts orientations – are also intergenerationally transmitted, and this transmission is symmetric in the sense that for all the orientations, children are more likely to adopt the orientation that their parents have rather than a different one. Thirdly, lifestyle socialisation in the childhood family has permanent effects on individuals’ cultural engagement in that its influence endures even after controlling for other factors influencing an individual’s lifestyle, such as education, age, gender and social mobility. Fourthly, socially mobile individuals are also culturally mobile, even if the effect of the childhood family is still visible in their lifestyle. Fifthly, social mobility can change personal preferences and dispositions practised in private life, such as taste in music and habits of reading literature or watching television. Lastly, education and occupations are not only different domains of stratification, but they adhere to different cultural hierarchies in that different cultural tastes and activities are valued within the education system and in occupational positions, as our analysis of the socially mobile people demonstrates.

In this dissertation we broaden the scope of the research on intergenerational transmission of lifestyles in that we add the overall engagement aspect and specific patterns other than the classical highbrow pattern to the analysis. One of the most salient findings in contemporary research on the correspondence between social classes and lifestyles is that overall cultural engagement increases in tandem with social class position. Adding to this, we show that overall engagement is intergenerationally transmitted, which suggests that this form of cultural inheritance could be the most important contemporary form of lifestyle and status reproduction, for both the upper classes and the lower classes. Moreover, we discern the cores of the social classes – classes of individuals who have the same social class as both of their parents have – and find systematic lifestyle differences between the working class and the middle class in our research context, Finland. In this context, socially upwardly mobile people tend to align with the lifestyles of their social destination, but they also keep some lifestyles they were socialised into in their social origins. This results in dissonant lifestyles where the lifestyle of the upwardly mobile class consists of elements from both their social origins and their social destinations. The methodological contribution arising from this result is that if the socially mobile people are not systematically separated from the cores of classes in research in the correspondence between social class stratification and cultural lifestyle stratification, it could mask the significant differences that may exist between the cores of the classes – such as those we find in the allegedly egalitarian Finland – and thus bias the results so that the resulting lifestyle differences appear smaller than they really are. Overall, this dissertation makes several advances in understudied topics in research on the correspondence between social class stratification and cultural lifestyles stratification and its continuity and change over the generations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTampere
ISBN (Electronic)978-952-03-2899-3
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (articles)

Publication series

NameTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (Print)2489-9860
ISSN (Electronic)2490-0028


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