Study suggest whiny kids grow up to be Conservatives.

Remember those kids in school who were whiny and insecure? As adults they’re probably Conservatives whereas the confident and self-reliant kids grew up to be Liberals. At least according to a 20 year personality study published in the Journal of Research Into Personality recently:

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.

As always it’s important not to read too much into this even though it might be personally gratifying and amusing to do so. There’s more at play in determining one’s political leanings than how much of a crybaby you were as a kid and the folks behind the study even make mention of this:

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.

Still, it plays a role to a degree and I’m going to let it put a smile on my face just the same. What I found most interesting in the article, though, was word that a similar study with similar conclusions in 2003 resulted in a Congressional investigation into the researcher’s funding:

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.

Hell, I’ve thought most Conservatives were crazy long before anyone put out a report that concluded as much. One only need listen to them for a short while to determine the truth of that statement.

15 thoughts on “Study suggest whiny kids grow up to be Conservatives.

  1. Being neither a liberal or conservative using the generally accepted labels I guess I was only half whiney when I was a kid.  I am by nature and by choice libertarian in my thinking.  I guess a good definition would be that I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. 

    I think any study that pigeon holes any set or group of people for any reason is suspect to begin with.  Particularly one that uses the term “whiney” as a defintion.  UC Berkely is not known as an instituion of rational thought from my point of view and my guess is the author had an agenda to begin with.  I personally would give it no more credence than a childhood study leading to the opposite conclusion authored by, say, the Hoover Institute.

  2. 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.

    To be conservative at 20 is heartless and to be a liberal at 60 is plain idiocy. (Winston Churchill 1874>1965)
    That’s me, that’s me.
    We see things as we are, not as they are. (Leo Rosten)
    Before I went to Vietnam I was rather conservative; it’s probably one of the reasons I went.
    I don’t think I was wimpy, or whiny. I was a loner, much like now.
    Over there I learnt about war and destruction both physically and mentally, peace and love and cynicism and the life-saving aspects of being a pessimist.
    I am now definitely LEFT of centre; I’m not comfortable with stoicism and the narrow views of conservatives, locked into thoughtless traditions toward all, on/of the planet; raping and pillaging.
    Only radicals, and idiots, have ever changed the world; conservatives, by their very nature, kill it.
    Conservative: One who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead. (Leo Rosten)

  3. Y’know, my buddy Ivan read a quote on some website that said “Reasonable men adapt themselves to their world. Unreasonable men adapt the world to themselves. Therefore, the world is built by unreasonable men”.

    It’s about power and inclination; while this study may provide insight into that topic, it can’t be said to be free of either trait, itself.

  4. Les,

    And now a smile from the other side of the fence:

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about oneself, of course…

    As part of a decades-long study that has tracked 130 individuals since nursery school, Colvin and his colleagues assessed subjects’ personalities at ages 18 and 23, monitoring such traits as dependability and how subjects handle life’s frustrations. The volunteers provided self-descriptions, and their friends contributed evaluations as well.

    **********

    “Self-enhancers [those with glowing positive self images, the liberals to be]tend to be hostile, lack social skills, and appear anxious and moody,” says Colvin. “They are sensitive to criticism and keep people at a distance—perhaps so that they don’t get negative feedback that might alter their overly positive view. They are trying to hide their flaws from themselves.”

    If self-enhancers are deluding themselves, they’re not fooling their friends. Even their pals describe self-enhancers as hostile, condescending, and unable to delay gratification, report Colvin and University of California psychologists Jack Block and David C. Funder in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And when friends see through the facade, self-enhancers engage in more distortion and denial in an attempt to maintain a positive self-view.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-19951101-000013.html

    Conclusion drawn by me:  Conservatives grow up. Liberals don’t.

  5. If self-enhancers are deluding themselves, they’re not fooling their friends. Even their pals describe self-enhancers as hostile, condescending, and unable to delay gratification, report Colvin and University of California psychologists Jack Block and David C. Funder in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And when friends see through the facade, self-enhancers engage in more distortion and denial in an attempt to maintain a positive self-view.

    Looks like I’m fucked. tongue rolleye
    But I’m still becoming smoke free from mid-nite Saturday, 26 March.
    Gonna try to make 60 whether I’m worthy or not.. wink

  6. There you go, Consi, whining again … wink  The original article says nothing about associating liberalism with “self-enhancement.”  Nice try.  Or is this your way of accusing liberals, once again, of being elitist?

    The personality type in that article actually reminds me a LOT more of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh …

  7. Like I said in the entry, I wouldn’t read too much into either study. The idea that personality plays a part in one’s political leanings really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and even the article I cited offered an alternative way of interpreting the conclusions:

    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.

    See? Too ways to look at the same data and paint flattering pictures of either side.

    Now quit whining. grin

  8. “Self-enhancers [those with glowing positive self images, the liberals to be]tend to be hostile, lack social skills, and appear anxious and moody,

  9. ingolfson, first rule of Consi engagement: Always check the sources – yours and his. Carefully review what he quoted here (emphasis added):

    “Self-enhancers [those with glowing positive self images, the liberals to be]tend to be hostile,

    Notice something? Geekmom did.

  10. An interesting observation on the study from the NPR blog:

    What bothers me here is the assumption that tradition and authority are found only in conservative politics. That is a big assumption. The dogmatic nature of the left can be just as rigid and stultifying, and many people of that political persuasion have a damned poor view of heterodoxy. (Go here for an article in Slate by Will Saletan on abortion orthodoxy on the left, and I would throw in gender roles, race, labor, and a few others. And don’t even get me started on this piece from The New York Times today about tourist orthodox lefties swallowing Hugo Chavez’s propaganda hook, line and sinker.)

    If you’re looking for a comfortable, predictable line that helps think your whiny thoughts for you, I’d say leftist ideology is also great, and would suffice.

    A more interesting question might be, (instead of defining left as being open and loose, and right as being tight and controlled) what personality traits of children turn into political and ideological rigidity of any sort as adults? My money is that it’s the whiny ones. So next time, give ‘em something to really cry about.

  11. Another article which complements the one Les cites is this study in the American Political Science
    Association
    journal, about the political leanings of monozygotic versus heterozygotic (identical versus non-identical) twins.  One conclusion the authors reached:

    …the substantive findings we present here offer a direct challenge to common assumptions and interpretations that political attitudes and behavioral tendencies are shaped primarily or even exclusively by environmental, especially familial, factors. Setting aside the important special case of party identification, we find that political attitudes are influenced much more heavily by genetics than by parental socialization.
    For the overall index of political conservatism, genetics accounts for approximately half of the variance in ideology, while shared environment including parental influence accounts for only 11%.

    ***dave: yes, the sillinesses of the left are also boundless.  Witness their embrace of post-modernist “thought”.  I’ll go along with elwed in not trusting politicians, or political ideologues, of any stripe, any further than I can throw them.

  12. What, conservatives are whiny? It took a scientific study to unearth that one?

    Critics branded it the “conservatives are crazy

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