Most Children Do Not Take After Their Parents Politically

a cartoon of an elephant in a red jumpsuit and a donkey in a blue jumpsuit
Image by DonkeyHotey / CC BY

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a person say that they want to raise their kids “the right way.” And when they say this, what they actually seem to mean is that they want to raise that child to have their values.

Values can encompass a wide area of socialization. For many folks, their political beliefs are part of this picture, as they are reflective of their values — whether those values are empathy and the protection of vulnerable population. Or a belief in a just world and punishment of those who would cheat the system. Or what have you.

A recent study of folks in the United States took this issue on. It looked into whether parents successfully transmit their political beliefs to their children. Here’s what it found:

  • Less than half of children in the study adopted their parents’ political affiliation.
  • Over a quarter of children incorrectly identified their parents’ values.
  • About a third of children in the study rejected whatever political affiliation they identified their parents to have.
  • This means that there are two important steps in this process: Correctly identifying their parents’ political values AND adopting them once identified. If either of these steps fall through, children do not take after their parents politically.
  • The researchers also studied parent-child closeness as part of this research. Unsurprisingly, they found that the closer parent and child were, the more they wanted to be like their parents.
  • However, they did find that being close did not seem to make it more likely that a child accurately knew their parents’ political identities.  (While surprising, this is consistent with another phenomenon we recently covered in this series, the closeness-communication bias.)
  • Children were more likely to know their parents’ political identities in hyperpartisan/overly political homes. However, they weren’t any more likely to adopt those same political identities (without a close bond also being present).

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Quite an interesting study. I’m hoping I can run across some more studies that explore whether or not a child takes after their parents based on how close that bond is. Because it’s truly fascinating stuff.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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