Whiny Kids Turn into Conservatives

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.
Now that's surprising! The Toronto Star has the story. No American papers seemed to be inclined to report on a study done by American Scientists on American children, living in the United States regarding American politics. Strange.
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.
Oh, right. Don't like the results? Investigate the scientist's funding. And in today's political climate, they'd probably call for the destruction of the presses of the paper that ran the story...
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.
The scientist's theory is that kids with insecurites look for "reassurance" in things like centralized authority, tradition and dogma. Children with self confidence are willing to look into various ways to live in the world and find liberalism more in keeping with their desire to escape from rigid orthodoxy.
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.
Of course he did. When you don't like what science says, accuse the scientist of being a damned 'Librul.

I hope this gets some pressin the United States. It's just rings true. Even the conservatives know it - that's why they hate it so much.

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