What is it about?

We developed the 20-question Parent Financial Socialization Scale. The scale was designed for emerging adults (age 18-30) thinking back on how their parents taught them about money during childhood/adolescence. The scale is made up of three subscales (which can also be used as stand-alone scales): the Parent Financial Modeling Scale (eight questions), the Parent–Child Financial Discussion Scale (nine questions), and the Experiential Learning of Finances Scale (three questions). These are the three main methods of family financial socialization, as identified in previous research. Financial modeling refers to the example that parents set for their child regarding money management. Financial discussion measures how openly parents talked about money with their child. Experiential learning captures the hands-on experiences with money that parents facilitated for their child. Scale development included the following steps: First, we wrote an initial list of possible questions, collected assessments from parent financial socialization experts about how well the questions measured the three subscales, and tested how well emerging adults understood the questions. After revising many questions and collecting preliminary survey data, we conducted statistical tests and threw out questions that produced overly-homogeneous responses or did not group well with the other questions in the subscale. We collected final survey data from 4,182 diverse (51.7% female, 47.6% male; 31.6% White, 22.0% Black, 19.8% Latinx, 14.6% Asian; 50.4% no parent with college degree, 47.4% parent with college degree) U.S. emerging adults. Once the scale questions were finalized, we tested the scale's reliability (do the various questions measure the same thing?) and validity (does the scale actually measure what it is supposed to measure?). Statistical tests indicated that the scale is quite reliable and valid. That is, the questions measured the same thing, and that thing appears to be parent financial socialization (how well emerging adults' parents taught them about money growing up). Also, emerging adults answered the questions similarly regardless of sex, race, or parents’ education level, so this scale can be used for diverse emerging adults. This project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for Financial Education.

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Why is it important?

Emerging adults are struggling financially, likely due to widespread economic difficulties as well as a lack of preparation for financial adulthood. These financial struggles tend to seep into every other facet of life at this critical stage of development. We need to improve the financial wellbeing of emerging adults. Perhaps the best way to prepare children/adolescents for future financial wellbeing is to help parents improve how they teach their children about money. Lots of previous research has found that parents are kids' number one source of financial learning. That is, kids learn more about money (for good or for ill) from their parents than they do from school, work, media, or peers. This is true whether parents intentionally teach their kids about money or not. The quantity and quality of this teaching really matters: How parents teach (or do not teach) their kids about money will affect their kids later in life not only financially but also physically, mentally, and relationally. We call this financial learning from parents "parent financial socialization," and it encompasses financial knowledge (e.g., what is compound interest?), behaviors (e.g., saving for the future), as well as financial attitudes and values (e.g., avoid consumer debt). Despite knowing the importance of parent financial socialization, there were no theory-driven scales measuring this concept that had been rigorously developed and tested. To move the field forward, we really needed a high-quality scale with which to study parent financial socialization. We sought to meet this need, and the scale presented in this paper is the result. The three subscales will allow scholars to measure various parent financial socialization methods and link them to unique outcomes for various demographics. This nuanced knowledge about parent financial socialization will inform efforts to improve children's financial learning. Also, as scholars consistently use this new scale, we will be better able to make cross-study comparisons (which has previously been difficult due to inconsistency in measures) and to trust our results (which has previously been hindered by a lack of rigorous scale development and validity testing). In sum, we hope this new scale will enhance the quality of family financial socialization research, expand the questions that can be answered, and allow for the development of financial education programs that are effective for a wide range of families.


As an emerging adult myself, I am passionate about optimizing wellbeing in this stage of life. As a Family Studies & Human Development scholar, I am quick to see the importance of families and eager to help families thrive so that individuals and society can better thrive. I have yet to meet anyone who claims that financial socialization is irrelevant to them--people are usually very eager to talk about it. Everyone was socialized about money, and that socialization has affected their knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and wellbeing. Also, every parent will socialize their children about money, whether intentionally or not. Let's make it intentional! I am a big fan of family life education, financial education, and Cooperative Extension, and I would love to see more programs focused on helping parents improve the way they teach their kids about money. I am also a big proponent of financial therapy (which combines mental, financial, and relational therapy), and I would love to see more individuals and couples getting help with these intertwined facets of their wellbeing.

Dr. Ashley B. LeBaron-Black

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This page is a summary of: Parent Financial Socialization Scale: Development and preliminary validation., Journal of Family Psychology, November 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/fam0000927.
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