When Parenting Style Predicts Political Leanings – News

In the first study, the researchers asked 99 participants, almost half with children, 19 questions to identify factors that influence the adoption of paternalistic policies. To the researchers’ surprise, parenting approach was the best predictor of paternalistic policy adoption, more so than political ideology, political party identity, and other demographics.

“I was surprised how these results cut across political parties,” said Lindke, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Social Innovation at the University of California, Riverside and first author of the study. “Each party crosses the paternalism line depending on the issue being asked.”

Lakoff’s model would suggest that if the parenting metaphor holds, it must be causal for political attitude. In the second study, Oppenheimer and his team worked with 150 participants to identify a causal relationship between parenting style and policy approach. They manipulated the content in the same newspaper article (pro, con and neutral) to evaluate participants’ responses. The team could not confirm that parenting approach resulted in policy preference.

Finally, the team assembled a larger group of participants (1,650) for the third study of which almost 60% had children. The results of the third study confirmed the findings of the first study. In addition, they found that the paternalistic approach extended beyond government policy to include medicine, education, business, peer relationships, religion, athletics, and caregiving.

According to Lindke, it may be possible to activate a person’s paternalism when a particular policy is presented, but it is difficult to shift a person’s attitude towards paternalism.

“By knowing people’s preferences for helicopter parenting, we can understand people’s views on autonomy vs. foretells coercion in business, religion, sports, peer relations, medicine, politics,” Oppenheimer said. “We can even predict how middle-aged people will treat our elderly parents with regard to autonomy, which has implications for geriatric health.”

Previous studies have found helicopter parenting to be detrimental to children, reducing levels of autonomy, student engagement and life satisfaction. Despite these negative implications, the style of helicopter parenting is on the rise.

“I don’t want to get alarmist because we really don’t know if the effects on children will be the same as the effects on citizens,” Oppenheimer said. “But if being helicoptered has similar effects on adults as children, we would expect to see increased mental health problems and lower self-efficacy across society.”

Oppenheimer and Lindke collaborated on the study, titled “Hovering at the Ballot: Do Helicopter Parents Prefer Paternalistic Political Policies?”

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