William James, considered the father of American psychology, recognized attitudes to be one of the most important psychological constructs, noting that people can change their lives by changing their attitudes. An attitude is a cognition referring to a relatively enduring view or evaluation of a belief (an attitude object). Attitudes differ from beliefs in that an attitude is an evaluation of an attitude object that has a positive or negative valence: For example, “I like that political candidate.” “I don’t like roller coasters.” “The Mustangs are my favorite team.”

Across the lifespan, individuals develop attitudes about a wide range of beliefs. Examples include attitudes about premarital sex, use of birth control, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, quality of child-rearing, corporal punishment, the importance of monitoring teens, adolescent ...

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