Generally speaking, parents who tend to espouse more conservative political views tend to parent their children in a way that is more “big government”*, while parents who tend to espouse more liberal political views tend to parent their children in a way that is more “small government”**.
I’ve got my own theory as to why this apparent phenomenon exists, one which I honestly consider to be entirely non-partisan and equally complimentary/critical/understanding of both situations. But first I turn to you, dear readers, for your thoughts. Are my observations non-representative and thus the entire premise flawed (remember, this looks at general trends… there are certainly multitudes of exceptions). But if they are *generally* accurate, why do you think this apparent contradiction exists? I’ll weigh in with an update later but am curious what the commentariat has to say first. Feel free to include your own political leanings and parenting styles if so inclined!
* i.e., more controlling; more involved in children’s decisions; more restrictive of behavior; less freedom for children
**i.e., greater decision-making ability for children; more independence; less structure/rules/limits
A lot of really fantastic conversation here, with most commenters touching on at least parts of my own theory and almost all going into far greater depth than I had initially offered the observation. Here are my own thoughts (prior to reading any of the discussion, which I will weigh on in the comments), which are no more or less valid than what has been stated:
1.) The extent to which the “phenomenon” even exists is only when looking very broadly and generally.
2.) Most folks political beliefs seem much more informed by the social realm than the economic or political realm, with the former dictating beliefs on the latter two. For instance, a conservative might often oppose welfare not because of an economic assessment of its impacts or a core belief in small government; often, they oppose it because of what they understand welfare to be, which is free government money to non-productive members of society. It is why they can, in good conscience, oppose welfare but support Medicare without being hypocritical; it is not the role of government that they are really opposed to but the social behaviors which government is supporting. On the flip side, liberals might support gun control but oppose marijuana prohibition without feeling hypocritical. Looking along the social spectrum, liberals tend towards less top-down structure, less adherence to authority and orthodoxy, and less deference to tradition, which lends itself more to a “live and let live” attitude. Conservatives tend toward more of each of these, which lends itself more to a “there is a proper way for things to be done which must be taught and learned” attitude. This, in turn, is a factor in the parenting styles the two groups SEEM to TEND to gravitate towards.
3.) Neither approach is bad on its face. As someone smarter than I previously discussed, there is no one ideal parenting style. Some kids will do best with an authoritative approach. Some will crumble under the weight. Some will reach dizzying heights with laissez-faire supervision while others will spin wildly out of control. As the risk of popping a Broder-Boner, I would default to a both/and approach and adopt as necessary from there for an individual child. In my role as a teacher (which is decidedly different than that of a parent, but there is obvious overlap), I let the students know that there are some things for which I as the adult have the authority or which there are specific and “traditional” ways to do; there are others where they will have free reign. Together, we will work together so that they can know the difference and properly navigate the various circumstances they will encounter.
4.) The parent-child relationship is not analogous to the government-citizen relationship. As someone (I’m forgetting who but will elaborate on when I find his/her comment) pointed out, the types of parenting themselves might be a direct reflection of this, as conservatives view the family as something that makes unnecessary government excess, where the liberal views the family as something that can depend on the government to make up for its errors. While I think this falls victim to some of the fallacies I discuss in point two, I do think there is some relevance there.
5.) I didn’t intend to go so long without updating and apologize if I left all of you on the edge of your seats awaiting my response, but the weekend snowballed on me. That being said, I think the conversation that arose here was fascinating and I followed it via email, waiting patiently to jump in with both feet.
6.) There is some degree to which this post was a Rorschach Test, which I think was also borne out in the comments.