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How to Spot a Baby Conservative

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by Phi83, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. Phi83

    Phi83 Contributing Member

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    How to spot a baby conservative
    KID POLITICS | Whiny children, claims a new study, tend to grow up rigid and traditional. Future liberals, on the other hand ...

    Mar. 19, 2006. 10:45 AM
    KURT KLEINER
    SPECIAL TO THE STAR

    Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.

    At least, he did if he was one of 95 kids from the Berkeley area that social scientists have been tracking for the last 20 years. The confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals.

    The study from the Journal of Research Into Personality isn't going to make the UC Berkeley professor who published it any friends on the right. Similar conclusions a few years ago from another academic saw him excoriated on right-wing blogs, and even led to a Congressional investigation into his research funding.

    But the new results are worth a look. In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids' personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There's no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it's unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings.

    A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

    The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

    Block admits in his paper that liberal Berkeley is not representative of the whole country. But within his sample, he says, the results hold. He reasons that insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

    In a society that values self-confidence and out-goingness, it's a mostly flattering picture for liberals. It also runs contrary to the American stereotype of wimpy liberals and strong conservatives.

    Of course, if you're studying the psychology of politics, you shouldn't be surprised to get a political reaction. Similar work by John T. Jost of Stanford and colleagues in 2003 drew a political backlash. The researchers reviewed 44 years worth of studies into the psychology of conservatism, and concluded that people who are dogmatic, fearful, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and who crave order and structure are more likely to gravitate to conservatism. Critics branded it the "conservatives are crazy" study and accused the authors of a political bias.

    Jost welcomed the new study, saying it lends support to his conclusions. But Jeff Greenberg, a social psychologist at the University of Arizona who was critical of Jost's study, was less impressed.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    `I found (the Jack Block study) to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best'

    Jeff Greenberg

    University of Arizona

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    "I found it to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best," he said of the Block study. He thinks insecure, defensive, rigid people can as easily gravitate to left-wing ideologies as right-wing ones. He suspects that in Communist China, those kinds of people would likely become fervid party members.

    The results do raise some obvious questions. Are nursery school teachers in the conservative heartland cursed with classes filled with little proto-conservative whiners?

    Or does an insecure little boy raised in Idaho or Alberta surrounded by conservatives turn instead to liberalism?

    Or do the whiny kids grow up conservative along with the majority of their more confident peers, while only the kids with poor impulse control turn liberal?

    Part of the answer is that personality is not the only factor that determines political leanings. For instance, there was a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult. Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7 per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became conservative. (If every self-reliant kid became a liberal and none became conservatives, it would predict 100 per cent of the variance). Seven per cent is fairly strong for social science, but it still leaves an awful lot of room for other influences, such as friends, family, education, personal experience and plain old intellect.

    For conservatives whose feelings are still hurt, there is a more flattering way for them to look at the results. Even if they really did tend to be insecure complainers as kids, they might simply have recognized that the world is a scary, unfair place.

    Their grown-up conclusion that the safest thing is to stick to tradition could well be the right one. As for their "rigidity," maybe that's just moral certainty.

    The grown-up liberal men, on the other hand, with their introspection and recognition of complexity in the world, could be seen as self-indulgent and ineffectual.

    Whether anyone's feelings are hurt or not, the work suggests that personality and emotions play a bigger role in our political leanings than we think. All of us, liberal or conservative, feel as though we've reached our political opinions by carefully weighing the evidence and exercising our best judgment. But it could be that all of that careful reasoning is just after-the-fact self-justification. What if personality forms our political outlook, with reason coming along behind, rationalizing after the fact?

    It could be that whom we vote for has less to do with our judgments about tax policy or free trade or health care, and more with the personalities we've been stuck with since we were kids.

    Kurt Kleiner is a Toronto-based freelance science writer.
     
  2. wnes

    wnes Contributing Member

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    LOL. Can our resident baby conservative halfbreed attest to the theory?
     
    #2 wnes, Mar 22, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  3. vlaurelio

    vlaurelio Contributing Member

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    insecure... so this explains why the twins are like that :D
     
  4. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    Liberals I think beleive in Self control
    and
    Conservatives beleive in more external Controls

    Liberals have faith in their fellow man to control himself. To be good people without the threat of prison/punishment

    Conservatives IMo do not

    the truth is somewhere in between

    So .. this study would make sense to me
    I don't think it is negative on either .. or should not be viewed that way

    Rocket River
     
  5. krosfyah

    krosfyah Contributing Member

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    I've got no doubt that these results are biased.

    But I also have no doubt that at the very foundation of liberalism is a spirit of free thinking and respect for individualism. Conversely the basis for conservatism is a spirt of conformity.

    Children are rebellious by nature.

    Virtually every rebellion in history was fighting the status-quo.

    So to raise a child as a conservative in some ways is to squash a fundamental element of the child's phyche.

    On the flip side, it takes all kinds in this world. If there were no conservatives, what would the rebels have left to rebel against? See, we need conservatives to give us liberals a reason to live. ;)
     
  6. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    No wonder my two kids are growing up to have liberal ideals. They are ardent fans of the Daily Show and Colbert, which they "get." They think the President is an incompetent goofus. My son considers himself an independent, with my daughter not having attempted to label herself, yet. They are very politically aware for their age, being 14 (my brilliant son) and ten (my brilliant and lovely daughter).

    I can't imagine why!

    Neither were ever "whiny and insecure."

    Keep D&D Civil.
     
  7. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    This is really stupid. Berkeley? Give me a break.
     
  8. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    do you not see conformity in liberalism, as well? i certainly do.

    the barest notions of conservatism are less govt. control...the barest notions of liberalism (i'm using U.S.definitions here) are more govt. control.

    honestly, at this point in my life i'm not an advocate for either way. i see the value of both concepts at play. the tension between the two, i believe, is entirely necessary.

    EDIT: but the funniest thing about this is that it tries to tie political thought down to an individual. i see that on this board a lot. that guy is a liberal..that guy is a conservative. it plays really well for the whole "team sports" politics. as if you can't bounce around over the course of your life. my thoughts on politics have shifted time and time again since i was about 16 years old. i'm certain they'll continue to shift.
     
    #8 MadMax, Mar 22, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  9. insane man

    insane man Member

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    yeah i think it has a lot to do with where you grow up.

    kids like me growing up liberal in republican suburbia weren't always confident when the US history professor would preach how the nuclear bomb was gods gift to us.
     
  10. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    Pew Research Center finds Republicans are happier than Democrats.

    Some 45% of all Republicans report being very happy, compared with just 30% of Democrats and 29% of independents. This finding has also been around a long time; Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey began taking its measurements in 1972. Pew surveys since 1991 also show a partisan gap on happiness; the current 16 percentage point gap is among the largest in Pew surveys, rivaled only by a 17 point gap in February 2003.
     
  11. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    While I don't really agree with those definitions - if nothing else it's interesting how much those two ideologies have flipped.
     
  12. thegary

    thegary Contributing Member
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  13. MadMax

    MadMax Contributing Member

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    i'm not talking republican/democrat. i'm talking strictly conservative vs. liberal. take them both out to their logical extremes. libertarianism embraces what is true conservatism. socialism more closely embraces true liberalism.

    at least that's how i see it. how i define it.
     
  14. rhadamanthus

    rhadamanthus Contributing Member

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    You're right. Both sides at their "purist" irritate me. However, since neither side has any idea how to be FISCALLY conservative, there is no conservative party.

    EDIT the 2nd:

    Max, I still don't agree now that I've thought about it. The notion that liberalism seeks more government control only applies to the "welfare" of the people. I.e., that the government should view it's consituents as the highest priority. Naturally, there are numerous ways to achieve this, and the huge programs fostered by the democrats may not have been the wisest.

    But to say that liberals favor more government control is too ambigous a statement for me.
     
    #14 rhadamanthus, Mar 22, 2006
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2006
  15. GladiatoRowdy

    GladiatoRowdy Contributing Member

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    Totally agreed. The only fiscally conservative party is the Libertarians and they are too far out in their trust that the market economy will correct things like pollution, corruption, etc.
     
  16. halfbreed

    halfbreed Contributing Member

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    No. I'm not whiny. I hate whiny people. In my experience whiny doesn't tell anything about a child except that they had bad parents.

    This is a dumb study to begin with. Small sample size from ONE geographic location.

    RR - You think liberals believe more in self control? If so, how would you explain the steady stream of liberals blaming media (games, music, movies) for violent behavior?

    EDIT: Although judging from the responses in this thread, maybe the study is on to something. Maybe the whiny kids are right and people like you guys really ARE out to get them. :D
     
  17. CBrownFanClub

    CBrownFanClub Contributing Member

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    The Parents Television Council, 700 Club, Focus on the Family, etc - those are all liberal? Mental note...
     
  18. Svpernaut

    Svpernaut Contributing Member

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    Your post makes complete sense... in BIZARRO WORLD! Conservatives are all about self control. See opposition to welfare, community health care and other social services for the poor while liberals think the opposite.
     
  19. krosfyah

    krosfyah Contributing Member

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    The results in the Berkley study didn't suggest happiness as an adult. It simply looked at childhood disposition and their subsequent adult political persuiasion.


    Don't get so sensitive. Your parents must have been conservative. ;) :D

    Seriuosly, the study makes some sense. I don't see this as a political debate in as much as advice on how to raise children.

    Think of the an extreme example. My wife attended a strict Catholic private school at some point. They constantly used fear tactics to get the kids to behave and conform to their Catholic ideals. My wife hated it because what kid wants to grow up in that environment. Kids want to be free to express themselves and run and play.

    That being said, conformity is important in adulthood. We can't all continue to be rebelious hippies. At some point, you gotta "grow up."

    So this study is an interesting in that it makes you examine how your children should be raised a little more. In the early stages, you need to ensure you develop their personalities. But you also have to teach life's lessons or you'll have a mal-adjusted kid.

    Lesson: Don't be so concerned about pounding your kids into submission when they are young. Let kids be kids. Let them learn and grow. It that such a bad thing?
     
  20. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Contributing Member

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    My parents are conservative, in a cultural sense. They go to Church and didn't want us drinking, doing drugs, etc. However, they were hardly strict. I had lots of freedom to hang out with friends and run around.

    I think you could find examples of liberal families forcing their kids to conform to their ideals.

    And another thing, if you are liberal in Berkeley you ARE conforming. It would be really difficult to be an open conservative over there- you'd actually have to think for yourself instead of just blindly agreeing with the liberal culture there. I remember in college it wasn't popular to be conservative.
     

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