Children of conservative parents are more likely to have good mental health compared to children of liberal parents, according to a new Institute for Family Studies (IFS) and Gallup research brief published Thursday.
“As it happens, being raised by liberal parents is a much larger risk factor for mental health problems in adolescence than being raised in a low-income household with parents who did not attend college,” wrote the brief’s author, Jonathan Rothwell, the principal economist at Gallup and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
That is a rather stunning finding!
“Children of conservative parents score significantly better on mental health using either a comprehensive measure of mental health based on several items, or just asking either parent or adolescents to summarize their mental health on a 1-5 scale. The gap is large,” Rothwell continued.
Rothwell wrote about his findings in an IFS blog post, noting that parents’ political ideology “is one of the strongest predictors” of a child’s positive mental health.
That is consistent with my experience, but it is nice to see someone quantify it. Conservatives have better relationships with their children than liberals do, on the average, in part because they discipline them:
“Conservative and very conservative parents are the most likely to adopt the parenting practices associated with adolescent mental health. They are the most likely to effectively discipline their children, while also displaying affection and responding to their needs,” he wrote.
Conversely, he said “liberal parents score the lowest, even worse than very liberal parents, largely because they are the least likely to successfully discipline their children.”
“By contrast, conservative parents enjoy higher quality relationships with their children, characterized by fewer arguments, more warmth, and a stronger bond, according to both parent and child reporting,” he continued.
Interestingly, “very liberal” parents do somewhat better than merely “liberal” ones. But conservative parents are best:
By the numbers, researchers found that adolescents with very conservative parents are 16 to 17 percentage points more likely to be in good or excellent health compared to their peers with very liberal parents.
“Only 55 percent of adolescents of liberal parents reported good or excellent mental health compared to 77 percent of those with conservative or very conservative parents,” the study found.
So on average, conservative parents do a better job of raising their children than liberals. And it is doubly good news, since conservative parents, on average, also have more children than liberals. So congratulate yourselves!