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When do we learn to trust in others? Wu, Zhiming


When do we learn to trust in others? One group of scholars believe that we inherit trust from our parents and within the cultural environment in which we grew up. Another group suggest that we update our trust in response to contemporary social experiences and contexts. Taking time seriously, in this dissertation I adopt a life course approach and consider whether trust travels across place and over time. Across place, I consider how the experience of growing up in a high trust place and then migrating to a low trust place affects migrants’ trust and vice versa. Trust is lower in the South compared to other U.S. regions and in Canada trust is lower in Quebec compared to other provinces. I focus on internal migration in the U.S. between the South and non-South and in Canada between Quebec and the rest of Canada. My analyses of the U.S. General Social Survey (1972-2016) and the Canadian General Social Survey (2013 & 2014) show that migration to a different trust environment as an adult has little impact on people’s trust. Over time, I consider intergenerational transmission of trust among Chinese adolescents aged 10-15. I adopt a dyadic approach that differentiates two same sex (mother-daughter and father-son) and two cross-sex (mother-son and father-daughter) dyads and use this approach to investigate whether the transmission pattern varies across the four parent-child dyads. Analysing the Chinese Family Panel Studies (2010-2014), I find that that whereas sons adopt trust from both mothers and fathers, daughters only adopt trust from mothers. The transmission is greater between same-sex generational dyads than between cross-sex pairs. In line with previous studies that show mothers and fathers play differential roles in socializing their sons and daughters, the finding of varying transmission patterns suggests that parental socialization is one underlying process in trust learning. Taken together, the overall results illustrate that we learn to trust primarily when we are young from our early life socialization and within the social environment where we grew up. This learned trust persists into adulthood.

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