Am I Turning My Son Into a Republican?

Study shows parenting style influences political leanings of children, which means everything I know about the 80s is a lie.
Publish date:
November 5, 2012
parenting, kids, politics, voting, 80s movies, the 1980s, election day

I have a soft spot for 80s movies and sitcoms, and in fact, I recently horrified/impressed my boyfriend by being able to instantly recall with 100% accuracy the lyrics to “The Facts of Life” theme song. This kind of trivial knowledge, which my brain is very good at retaining, serves absolutely no purpose other than allowing me to understand all the pop culture references on “Family Guy.”


I’ve been known to bust out a reference to “Growing Pains” or “Sixteen Candles” in the wrong crowd -- say, friends whose parents only let them watch PBS, or friends who were born IN the 80s, and are therefore too young to know what I’m talking about when I say my first crush was on Ricky Schroeder when he was on “Silver Spoons” (also Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates, but that is another matter*). Thereby proving just how old and uncool I really am.

And I won’t lie, I can’t help but compare the conservative vs. liberal dialogue during the current election season with the relationship between Reagan-era Republican Alex P. Keaton of “Family Ties” and his hippie parents. You know, they say they want him to be compassionate and understanding, and he answers back with “something something trickle-down economics.”

And if it seems unlikely that two liberal Democrats like Elyse and Steven Keaton could produce a conservative Republican like Alex, that’s because it is (I mean, duh, it’s a sitcom). It’s no stretch of the imagination to think that most children will take on their parents’ political leanings. After all, we learn by example, and if the example you’ve been shown all your life is a conservative one, chances are, that’s the way you’ll vote when the time comes.

That is not necessarily so in my family, though. My extended family doesn’t really discuss politics, but I’m fairly confident in saying that they are conservative. My mom, however, is a registered Democrat. My own politics are a confusing clusterfuck of socially liberal and fiscally conservative leanings, thereby rendering me without a political party platform that I can fully support, though I’m also a registered Democrat -- probably, at least in part, because of my mom's affiliation with that party

So how does a conservative family produce two Democrats? This old Gallup poll found that kids tend to take on their parents’ political leanings.

And a new study goes a step further. It found that one’s parenting style can have an influence on the politics of his or her offspring. What the researchers found was that parents with authoritarian attitudes toward child-rearing tend to raise Republicans, and parents with a softer approach tend to raise Democrats. This is not a new idea; for years, researchers have suggested a link between parenting and politics.

From the study’s abstract:

“...parents' authoritarian attitudes assessed when children were 1 month old predicted conservative attitudes in those children more than 17 years later. “

Thereby proving that hard-ass dads who want their kids to go into the military do NOT produce children who want to go to art school and hang out with their “tomboyish” best friends who are secretly in love with them.

It’s like everything I know about the 80s is a lie, man.

From an article about the study by the MinnPost:

“The study also found that children whose temperaments exhibited higher levels of fearfulness at age 4 1/2 were more likely to become politically conservative, while those whose temperaments showed higher levels of activity and restlessness were more likely to become politically liberal.”

I read these things and I wonder if I’m turning my son into a Republican. I mean, I’m pretty strict with him. Then again, he also feels like he can say anything to me, which makes me feel that I must be doing something right. He’s only seven, which is probably too young to ask him if he’s politically moderate. So we’ll just have to wait 11 years to see what my parenting has done in shaping his politics. Who knows? Maybe he won’t even vote.

Speaking of kids and politics, have you all seen this poor tiny girl, who is experiencing extreme political fatigue? She’s four!

You and me both, sister. Stay safe out there on Election Day, dear xoJane readers. May your poll lines be short, your chads never hang, and your vote count. And I totally hope none of you are disenfranchised by the town preacher who has banned dancing when all you want to do is dance.

Somer is on Twitter giving all kinds of totally useless information @somersherwood

*Daryl Hall: still making music, still smooooth.