Scientists associate having children with being more conservative

What drives our political affiliation has long been a matter of scholarly interest.

Now, a new study suggests that having kids — and not growing old — can make you more right.

Experts have found a link between having children and having conservative values ​​related to social issues such as abortion, immigration, gender and national security.

According to the researchers, being more invested in parental care “could make socially conservative policies more appealing.”

Attitudes towards topics like abortion, welfare and national security have become more conservative with the number of children, the study found. Pictured are pro-life marchers and pro-choice protesters at the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC, 2018


– Patriotism

– Religion

– Prohibition of abortion

– Traditional wedding

– Military and national security

The study was led by Nicholas Kerry, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Differences in attitudes on social issues such as abortion, immigration, and gender are hugely divisive, and understanding their origins is one of the most important tasks facing the sciences of human behavior,” they say. they in their article.

“Despite the obvious psychological importance of parenting and motivation to care for children, researchers have only recently begun to study their influence on social and political attitudes.

‘[We found] evidence that parenthood and parental care motivation are associated with increased social conservatism worldwide.

For the study, the researchers conducted several experiments to explore the link between having children and political values.

In one experiment, they surveyed 2,610 adults in 10 countries, including the United States, Australia, South Korea, Chile, Lebanon and Japan.

All respondents completed measures of their motivation to provide parental care and their level of conservatism.

Conservatism was determined by their attitudes on topics such as same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion rights, social benefits, and “military and national security.”

Parents’ motivation to care for them was determined by their level of agreement with statements such as “when I see babies, 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 without children.

Another experiment involved researchers showing photos of “cute young children” to American college students, almost all of whom had no children.

Most research on parental status and psychosocial characteristics has not effectively distinguished childless individuals from other nonparents, the team says (stock image)

Most research on parental status and psychosocial characteristics has not effectively distinguished childless individuals from other nonparents, the team says (stock image)

Participants were asked to identify which of the children “resembled the most how they imagined a future child of their own”.

They also had to give this particular child an imaginary name and describe a series of hypothetical positive experiences with them, before being assessed for 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 point out that the link between parenthood and conservatism appears to relate only to conservative social values ​​(like patriotism and abortion) and not economic conservatism (like welfare benefits and fiscal responsibility).

Patriotism, the feeling of devotion and support for one's own country, is generally seen as a more right-wing value (file photo)

Patriotism, the feeling of devotion and support for one’s own country, is generally seen as a more right-wing value (file photo)

Overall, the new study challenges the idea that social conservatism is caused by aging.

“There’s this idea that as you get older you become more conservative of experience and being bitten by the real world,” Dr Kerry told 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 the age difference.

One of the limitations of the study is that it was correlational, so the team “cannot conclude with certainty that parenthood itself is at the root of 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 “motivation to care for children is therefore one of the fundamental drivers of human behavior, but its power to shape social attitudes and cognition is underestimated”.


Parenthood is considered by some to be one of life’s greatest joys, but according to a recent study, adults who don’t have children are just as happy as those who do.

Psychologists at Michigan State University (MSU) asked nearly 1,000 adults whether or not they had children and their level of life satisfaction.

They found no difference in life satisfaction, as well as limited differences in personality traits, between parents and childless individuals.

On top of that, more than a quarter of survey respondents said they had chosen not to have children – far more than the study authors had expected.

The team said their research was unique because it separated ‘non-parents’ (people who are not parents) into three categories: ‘childless’, ‘childless’ and ‘not yet parents’.

Read more

Harry D. Gonzalez