Can Parents Mold Their Kids' Political Thinking?

How does the "nature versus nurture" debate play out in shaping political thought and behavior?


Can you trace your politics to your parents? 

Growing up I watched the popular TV show, “Family Ties,” and laughed along with America at the antics of Alex P. Keaton. Played by a very young Michael J. Fox, Keaton was an unabashedly ideologically conservative teenager who regularly confounded his decidedly liberal-leaning parents. They simply had no idea how they had produced a child so different from themselves.

According to a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science, parenting attitudes, combined with temperament, may predict whether a child will grow into a conservative or liberal as a young adult.

The study found that parents who practiced a more authoritarian style of parenting, coupled with a child whose temperament was shy or fearful, was a strong predictor of that child’s identification with a conservative ideology once they reached young adulthood. Parents with a more egalitarian style tended to have children that identified as liberals.

Personally, this study raises more questions than it answers for me. With just just days to go in the current election season, I think about all the family tables across the country where parents and their children are squaring off about politics and lifestyles.

Why do some kids who are raised by so-called "authoritarian parents" ultimately reject their parents' ideology? Do their temperaments make the difference? Which brings up the whole nurture versus nature question. Also, don’t liberally inclined parents still want their children to obey to some degree? Does how they define obedience, and how they go about getting it make the difference?

As a parent, are you intentionally trying to raise your children to be conservative or liberal? Did your upbringing influence your ideological views as an adult? 


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