Attitudes to the future - as a value

By contrast, where the families’ attitudes to the future are concerned, each family - on the basis of collected information about them - is divided into one of the three basic outlooks on life, as suggested by Schousboe (1990,1990,1991).

Attitudes to the future cannot, however, be described as a life pattern in their own right but can and should be described as a value (in a general, scientific perspective).

Schousboe, however, does not hesitate to call “attitudes to the future” a life pattern category.

On the basis of basic categories, it is then possible to define three fundamentally different bases for people’s arrangement of their lives although the three different forms of existence are manifested in innumerable variations. In practise it is often difficult to differentiate between a family Schousboe characterises as a “day-to-day life family” and a “socially engaged family”.

The basis for Schousboe’s argument is that the different families’ dreams about what constitutes the good life go in different directions.

In ancient times the predominant philosophy was that the good life was best if it resembled existence in the distant past. In the Renaissance, the prevailing idea was that existence was best when it closely resembled an ideal, dreamland, utopia.

In present times and in our culture, there are ambivalent views as to what constitutes the good life. Some people refer to “the good old days before the world went mad”, others believe life is good as it is and others still believe that the good life lies somehow somewhere out in the future.

Each in their own way, the families’ attitudes reflect social developments.

  • from the farmhouse production of raw materials, a cyclic existence with a seasonal pattern where the maintenance of life was contingent upon tomorrow being just as good as the day before yesterday -
  • to the industrial society’s production idea where producing something new from something old is connected with ideas about growth, renewal and change.

This suggests that the different perspectives on life differ in terms of how families view opportunities for the future. Basically, it is possible to categorise the families who took part in this research into the three different perspectives on life as expressed by their different ways of life and lifestyles. Schousboe describes these three perspectives on life as:

The day-to-day family - sees the future as unlikely and undesirable. They believe that the good life is a life devoid of change and renewal.

They want tomorrow to be like yesterday. This perspective on life is reminiscent of the classical farmer’s life philosophy but, even though they are traditionalists, they do not seek a return to the good old days. The hallmarks of a rich and happy day-to-day life are peace and security built up around the family group with no big upheavals. The decisive factors for this kind of life are security of employment and good health. Only good fortune or bad luck can determine whether unemployment, financial difficulties, illness or death are to be the causes of destruction of the good life.

Only very few people believe that they have any influence on their own existence. According to Schousboe (1991:6), probably 50-60% of all Danes have a day-to-day life family perspective.

The socially engaged family (25-30% of all Danes) worries that dangers, such as environmental disasters, war and revolution, unemployment, technological advances and increasing internationalisation, threaten the good and secure life. They do not believe that bad luck or Fortune will decide future developments but are, even so, in some doubt as to whether they themselves can do anything about it. Such a family may seem to have traditionalist and conservative attitudes and morals.

They believe that social engagement and public debate are the best guarantee and precondition for making the best decisions.

Well thought-out plans of action are intended to prevent the most unfortunate consequences of developments which are inevitable. The socially-oriented family will often want to maintain status quo or to turn the clock back to the days before the world went mad.

The enterprising family (10-20%) believe that the future depends on their making an effort. Enterprising families are concerned with creating their own individual existence. They are industrious and engaged in personal projects and want more than anything else to produce good, demonstrable results. They dare to compete, take chances, “stick their necks out”, try new things and are always on the look-out for opportunities for finding and trying new things. Their existence is - in different ways - filled with industry, creativity and life. They are constantly - in different ways - on their way “into the future”.

Existence can be very different - ranging from a career abroad, total engagement in the work of an organisation or movement or an active family life in the country with children, animals and a variety of interesting projects to work on. Flexibility, creativity, readiness to change and the ability to see the wider perspectives are characteristics particularly closely connected with industriousness.

In her description of the different family life patterns, Schousboe draws attention to the fact that we seldom find people whose life pattern is not a mixture of several patterns. However, it is possible to state that one life pattern dominates at the expense of the other two.

Relating Danish conditions to the international perspective, Schousboe (1991:7) states that “one can to a considerable extent find the same basic attitudes and norms in other Western countries. There are, however, great differences as to the dominant family pattern group in each country.”

In Denmark there are a great many socially-engaged consumers while the  

enterprising group is significantly larger in countries like e.g. France, Northern Italy. In the US, American families are “officially” not allowed to be anything but enterprising. Even so, as in Scandinavia, people should preferably appear to stand shoulder to shoulder and act like responsible day-to-day people.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the lives of day-to-day people will always be firmly anchored in a set of local, regional and national traditions which are also valuable.

Table Families’ attitudes to the future

Total no. of families: 401


Attitudes to the future -

Total no.




Socially engaged


No information 








Most Danish children live in a nuclear family. The children who took part in this research (Steenhold (1993,d - table 7.3.)) do too.

The same difficulties occur in registering the families’ attitudes to the future (using Schousboe’s categories) as occur when registering working life patterns.

There are as yet only a few, sporadic analyses based on Schousboe’s concepts of attitudes to the future - and their results are widely divergent figures for the extent and proportions of the attitude patterns.

In this research doubt as to how far a family is a day-to-day family or a socially engaged family has resulted in more families being registered as day-to-day families. So there is some uncertainty as to how big this group actually is. Categorising the enterprising families is an easier task.

The majority (70%) of families in this research were categorised as day-to-day life families, firmly anchored in solid local and national traditions but with a certain amount of social engagement.



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