This paper begins with the observation that family change has been a common occurrence in many places around the world. Social scientists have accumulated a wide array of structural and ideational explanations of this worldwide family change. In this paper we focus our attention on one particular set of ideational forces that we refer to as developmental idealism. We suggest that it has been disseminated widely around the world, where it has had enormous influence on family behavior, beliefs, and values.
Our contention that developmental thinking and conclusions have had extensive international dissemination is supported by new evidence from Nepal and Argentina. We find that in both countries, most ordinary people have considerable knowledge of the ideas of development, substantial knowledge about the major countries of the world, can rate countries on their levels of education and development, believe that there is an association between socioeconomic development and family structure, and believe that economic development and family structures and relationships are causally connected, with economic development causing family change and family change causing economic development. At this point in our research program, we cannot draw conclusions about the sources of these ideas in Argentina and Nepal or about their implications for family change. Further data collection and analysis will be required for answering these questions.