Developmental idealism and family life in Malawi

Arland Thornton, University of Michigan
Rachael S. Pierotti, University of Michigan
Linda Young-DeMarco, University of Michigan
Susan Watkins, University of California, Los Angeles

We examine the extent developmental idealism has been disseminated in Malawi. Developmental idealism is a set of beliefs and values about development and its relationship to family structures and behavior. It states that attributes of societies and families defined as developed are better than attributes defined as traditional, that modern societies help produce modern families, that modern families facilitate the achievement of modern societies, and that the future will bring more modern families. Previous research has demonstrated that developmental idealism is widespread internationally, but provides little data about its occurrence in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper helps fill this gap by examining beliefs about developmental idealism in Malawi. Our survey data show that many people relate development with certain family attributes, believe that development brings family change, and believe that family change fosters development. Many also predict that family attributes defined as modern will become more common in the future.

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Presented in Poster Session 1