We ultimately choose our values…but there are lots of influences trying to guide us to the “correct” values. As children, we are at the mercy of their parents. Our cognitive capacity as children is literally not developed enough to develop a sophisticated alternative. We eventually develop and then our peers and other influences enter the picture more strongly. Our cultural context is at work as well, primarily through schools, but also churches, Boys & Girls Scouts, etc.
The conditions we grow up in as children have a important influence on our values. Inglehart’s Theory of Intergenerational Value Change asserts that a key determinant of one’s values relates to the conditions of their upbringing, chiefly how secure or insecure one felt. For instance, a child brought up in insecure economic insecurity is likely to gravitate to modern values with their focus on achievement, growth, and economic success. Similarly, a child brought up in conditions of great economic security, where it’s not a worry, is more likely to gravitate to postmodern values, with its emphasis on self-expression, well-being, and experiences. In ConsumerShift, the connection is made between values and needs along Maslow’s hierarchy. The basic survival needs are taken care of first – accompanied by traditional values and following the rules; belonging needs are next – accompanied by modern values and achievement and material goods acquisition, and self-actualization needs are accompanied by postmodern values wit self-expression and the search for meaning.
So, our childhood situation and experiences has a strong and lasting influence, but it is not decisive. We sort through the influences and messages in the process of forming our own identity. We are subject to many influences, but we decide. Andy Hines