Conservative parents have better quality relationships with their children, leading to better mental health, research has found
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Teenage children of liberal parents are more likely to experience mental health problems, according to a study published Thursday by the Institute of Family Studies and Gallup. Liberal parents have poorer quality relationships with their offspring – the most important influence on a child’s mental development, according to the survey.
Explaining that political ideology is one of the strongest predictors of parenting style, study author Jonathan Rothwell noted that “conservative and very conservative parents are the most likely to adopt the parenting practices associated with adolescent mental health.”
“Liberal parents score the lowest, even worse than very liberal parents, largely because they are the least likely to successfully discipline their children,” the survey found. In contrast, it discovered that conservative parents are more likely to mete out discipline effectively while displaying affection and responding to the child’s needs.
The difference in outcomes was not small, according to the study. Only 55% of the offspring of liberal parents reported good or excellent mental health, compared to 77% of adolescents with conservative or very conservative parents.
Regulation, enforcement, and warm responsiveness were the parenting practices most associated with favorable outcomes. According to the study, parents who agreed their child “must complete the priorities I set for them before they are allowed to play or relax” and “follows a regular routine” on school days saw significantly better results. Daily displays of affection and quickly responding to a child’s needs had similarly weighted effects on mental health.
Conversely, parents who said they found it “difficult to discipline their child” saw a significant negative correlation, as did parents who said the child often gets their way in parent-child conflicts.
While avoiding “adverse experiences” such as parental alcohol or drug abuse, death, or abandonment also had a strong predictive effect, it was dwarfed by how parents and teens reported the quality of the overall relationship. Other substantial influencing factors included how often the teen felt safe and protected and whether they lived with someone who was “frequently angry.”
Parents’ relationships with their spouses and favorable attitudes toward marriage were also strong predictors of adolescent mental health. However, demographic factors like income, wealth, and race/ethnicity did not affect the child’s well-being. Education, which accounted for less than 1% of the variation in outcomes, also did not have an impact, according to the pollsters.
Mental illness was surging among American teens even before the Covid-19 lockdowns isolated them from their social support systems, with persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors increasing 40% in the decade leading up to the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.