A Typical 1950s Family

Click the icon below to get another copy of the "Values and Attitudes of the 1950s" Tasksheet that we worked through as a class on the 21st and 22nd of August. This needs to be completed and glued into your books - it will be useful to help you prepare for your exam.

1950s Mainstream Values and Attitudes

People are influenced by the society that they are a part of. The new values and attitudes that emerged in the 1960s were a reaction against the mainstream values and attitudes of the 1950s. In the 1950s, in New Zealand and the United States of America, every aspect of culture was controlled by adults. A major belief in these mainstream, adult controlled cultures was that “Everyone should work hard to achieve success”. From this belief came the following three attitudes. “Young people should be obedient and polite”. “Young people should get a good education”. “Young people should dress in a manner that is acceptable to adults”. Mainstream 1950s culture emphasised getting material possessions and a good job as the path to happiness. New Zealand mainstream culture in the 1950s was not worried that the All Blacks played all white rugby teams from apartheid South Africa and that nuclear weapons were being tested in the South Pacific. It was also blind to historical Maori grievances over violations of the Treaty of Waitangi and that environmental damage was being done to New Zealand in the name of economic progress. The mainstream adult culture also believed that the role of women in society was to stay at home, do domestic chores and care for children.

The adults of the 1950s’ values and attitudes were influenced by depression and war. The parents of the 1950s had been children during the hard time of the Great Depression (1929 – 35), so they were very careful with money. They were also very keen for their children to get secure jobs. During the Second World War (1939 – 45), military life had stressed the importance of obedience to superiors. This was reinforced in the 1950s by compulsory military training for males aged 18 – 21. Fathers also gave orders in the home and expected them to be obeyed without complaint. Young people who had left school generally lived at home and helped with the housework until they married. Their parents checked their leisure activities and set the hours for them to return home. In New Zealand a 1954 report on juvenile delinquency suggested that young people were being influenced by bad values and attitudes coming from the United States through the mass media. As a result, the Government imposed strict censorship on movies, comics, books and records. Practically all radio programmes matched adult interests. There were children’s programmes, but there were no programmes for teenagers. Youth clothing styles modelled adult styles.




Environmental Damage
The Great Depression

Juvenile Delinquency

Leisure Activities
Maori Grievances
Mass Media
Material Possessions
Nuclear Weapons
The Role of Women
Second World War
Values and Attitudes

Link to Values and Attitudes of the 1950s Quiz

Comprehension Questions

1. Create a box in the middle of a page in your Social Studies book and write in it “Mainstream values and attitudes in the 1950s”. Create a Star Diagram by drawing arrows out of the box to at least 6 values and attitudes identified in the text.

2. Write 3 – 4 sentences describing why or why not you would have enjoyed life as a young person in the 1950s. Use the text and picture above as well as the film below to help you give 2 – 3 reasons.

Other films communicating 1950s values and attitudes

1. Control Your Emotions

2. Children Must Obey Their Parents