Report Shows Conservatives More Likely To Produce Happier Teens

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Jonathan Rothwell is the principal economist responsible for researching and publishing various social science topics at the global analytics and advisory firm Gallup. Rothwell recently took part in a collaboration with the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), which addresses the surging adolescent mental health crisis health authorities have labeled an “emergency.”

Strong marriages, accountable relationships, stricter parenting, and conservative beliefs produce the happiest teens.

Relationships Are Key

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Along with his team at Gallup, Rothwell’s project studied the parenting practices of “6,643 parents, including 2,956 who live with an adolescent,” and included 1,580 of those adolescents in the survey.

The study covered family relationships, personality traits, and ideals surrounding marriage. The results, says Rothwell, clearly indicate that the relationship with the caregiver is fundamental to their happiness, revealing the traits of parents who “engage in best practices and enjoy the highest quality relationships.”

Money Is Not a Factor

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The data shows many significant findings, some of which may surprise well-educated or wealthy Americans. Primarily, results show socioeconomic status not to be a factor in teenagers' mental health.

Secondly, the parenting success and relationship with their adolescent child were not influenced by race or ethnicity — at least in the US cohort. However, the core of what was discovered will make some parents happier than others, especially those who vote red. 

The Political Spectrum

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Most striking about the outcome was the clear distinction between conservative and liberal values and their effect on adolescent wellness. “Political ideology is one of the strongest predictors,” Rothwell says. “Conservative and very conservative parents are the most likely to adopt the parenting practices associated with adolescent mental health.”

These include a stronger devotion to regulation and enforcement, such as forming routines, setting targets, and responding quickly to children’s needs.

Permissive Parenting Fails

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In the study, Rothwell argues how over 1,000 published works have shown how stricter parenting results in fewer mental health problems, while “overly permissive parenting predicts higher risk of mental health problems and problematic behaviors, as does neglectful parenting.”

These parenting methods correlate with a conservative or liberal belief system — in short, the more conservative the parent, the better the likely outcome; the more liberal the parent, the higher the chances of the opposite.

The Benefits of Marriage

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Moreover, attitudes toward marriage were a key component of Rothwell's discoveries. The survey included three statements to which parents would agree or disagree.

Parents showed a positive outlook on marriage if they agreed with the following statements: “Marriage improves partnerships by strengthening the commitment to one another,” and “I hope my child marries someone when the time is right.”

They also disagreed that “Marriage is an outdated institution.”

Although these statements didn’t necessarily depend on current marital status or political affiliation, they did show a connection to how happy parents’ marriages were — also a key indicator for better adolescent mental health.

Love Thy Spouse

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In a recent interview with The Hill, where he discussed his findings, Rothwell reflected on how a parent’s childhood and upbringing greatly influenced the relationship with their kids.

However, he argued it was mainly about parents’ relationships with each other. “What was much stronger in terms of predicting whether you have a good relationship with your children was how well you get along with your spouse.”

Public Health Not Doing Enough

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Rothwell argues in the IFS report that he is perturbed by the measures being taken by those in command of public health.

“Unfortunately, the solutions proposed by organizations like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the American Academy of Pediatrics—such as increased funding for diagnostic and psychiatric services—do not meet the challenge and ignore what are likely to be the most important causes,” he writes.

Author: Ben Rice

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Raised in England and with a career background in international education, Ben now lives in Southern Spain with his wife and son, having lived on three continents, including Africa, Asia, and North America. He has worked diverse jobs ranging from traveling film projectionist to landscape gardener.

He offers a unique, well-traveled perspective on life, with several specialties related to his travels. Ben loves writing about food, music, parenting, education, culture, and film, among many other topics. His passion is Gen-X geekery, namely movies, music, and television.

He has spent the last few years building his writing portfolio, starting as a short fiction author for a Hong Kong publisher, then moving into freelance articles and features, with bylines for various online publications, such as Wealth of Geeks, Fansided, and Detour Magazine.