What drives our political affiliation has long been a topic of scholarly interest.
Now, a new study suggests that having children — rather than aging — can make you more right-wing.
Experts have found a link between having children and adherence to conservative values when it comes to social issues such as abortion, immigration, sex and national security.
Investing more in parenting “could make socially conservative policies more attractive,” the researchers say.
Attitudes toward issues such as abortion, welfare and national security became more conservative with the number of children, the study found. Pictured: Pro-Life protesters and Pro-Choice protesters in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington DC, 2018
EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE VALUES
– Abortion bans
– Traditional marriage
– Military and national security
The study was led by Nicholas Kerry, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“Differences in attitudes about social issues such as abortion, immigration and sex are enormously divisive, and understanding their origins is among the most important tasks of human behavioral science,” the article states.
“Despite the clear psychological importance of parenthood and the motivation to care for children, researchers have only recently begun to study its impact on social and political attitudes.
‘[We found] Evidence that both parenting and the motivation for parental care are associated with increasing social conservatism around the world.’
For the study, the researchers conducted several experiments to examine the connection between having children and political values.
In an experiment, they surveyed 2,610 adults in 10 countries including the US, Australia, South Korea, Chile, Lebanon and Japan.
All respondents completed measurements of how motivated they were to provide parental care and how conservative they were.
Conservatism was determined by their attitudes toward issues such as gay marriage, sex before marriage, abortion rights, welfare payments, and “military and national security.”
Parents’ motivation for caregiving was determined by how much they agreed with statements such as “When I see infants, I want to hold them.”
Overall, the researchers found that people with children and those motivated to care for children were more socially conservative than those who did not have children.
In another experiment, researchers showed US university students photos of “young, sweet children,” almost all of whom had no children.
Most research on parental status and psychosocial characteristics has not effectively differentiated childless individuals from other non-parents, the team said (stock image).
Participants were asked to identify which of the children “most closely resembles what they imagine their future child to be.”
They also had to give this particular child a fantasy name and describe a series of hypothetical positive experiences with them before being judged on their conservative values.
Likewise, the researchers found that those who were more motivated to care for the child tended to have these more socially conservative values.
The researchers emphasize that the link between parenting and conservatism appears to be related only to socially conservative values (like patriotism and abortion) and not to economic conservatism (like welfare benefits and fiscal responsibility).
Patriotism, the sense of devotion and support for one’s country, is widely considered a more right-wing value (file photo)
Overall, the new study challenges the notion that social conservatism is caused by aging.
“There’s this notion that as you get older you become more conservative because you have experience and you get bitten by the real world,” said Dr. Kelly the Guardian.
“But that doesn’t seem to be the case. If you look at people who aren’t parents, you just don’t see an age difference.’
One of the limitations of the study is that it was correlated, so the team “cannot conclude with certainty that parenting itself causes social conservatism.”
It’s possible that parenthood makes people more conservative, but also that conservative people are more likely to choose to become parents.
The researchers conclude that ‘thus, the motivation to care for children is one of the fundamental drivers of human behavior, but its power to shape social attitudes and cognitions is underestimated’.
ADULTS WITH NO CHILDREN ARE JUST AS HAPPY AS THOSE WITH CHILDREN, STUDY FINDINGS
Parenthood is considered by some to be one of life’s greatest joys, but adults who don’t have children are just as happy as those who do, according to a recent study.
Psychologists at Michigan State University (MSU) asked nearly 1,000 adults whether or not they have children and how satisfied they are with their lives.
They found no differences in life satisfaction and limited differences in personality traits between parents and childless individuals.
In addition, more than a quarter of those surveyed said they had no children — far more than the study authors expected.
The team said their research is unique because it categorized “non-parents” (people who are not parents) into three categories — “child-free,” “childless,” and “not-yet-parents.”