Do Children Make Parents More Conservative?


I had an interesting idea this weekend regarding the effect that having children has on one’s life views.

I was talking to a friend of mine about what our plans were for ten and twenty years from now, and he basically said that he stays focused on being very conservative with his money because he plans on having kids at some point.

He’s quite progressive, as I am, so the word “conservative” didn’t have any overt social implications for him, but it prompted me to think about how I would view life differently if I planned on having children.

In short, I think I’d instantly become more conservative. Not just financially, but socially as well. I put myself in that position and instantly saw myself moving away from the Bay Area and landing somewhere with good public schools, little crime, and generally smart, like-minded people nearby. San Francisco is mostly like that, but the Bay Area in general is fairly rough.

Anyway, what fascinated me was that in a single mental experiment I could feel myself become more conservative. After careful self-reflection I think I figured out how it came about: It wasn’t that having kids made me more conservative, it was that having kids made me scared. And being scared made me more conservative.

This is consistent with a number of studies that have come out recently that seem to show that conservatives tend to be more afraid than liberals.

And it makes sense if you think about it. If you feel connected to everyone, not tied down to anything, and see the world as a big place to explore and love and grow, then you tend to be more liberal. But if you have something to protect, and you see the world as a place that can deny necessities to your loved ones, you’re more likely to take certain actions.1 At the top of the list is probably collecting together with other like-minded people, ostracizing those who think differently, etc.

Now think about taxation, welfare, incarceration, healthcare, and other social policies. The more conservative you are the more likely you are to scream, “Mine! Me! Not theirs!” That’s conservative, and it’s based on fear in my opinion — fear that your resources will be used wasted on another.

Where this really starts getting interesting is if you take it further — to where I think society should be heading. This would be a society where we don’t reproduce “just because”, and instead we only have enough children to maintain an ideal number of people on the planet. What’s ideal? Let science tell us that. Oh, first you have to actually ask the question.

In a world like that we would have far more people who lived without fear. Why? Because there would be more resources for fewer people. Crazy. And when we did have children there wouldn’t be this massive fear that prompted us to hoard for them at the expense of everyone else (especially those who don’t look and act like us).

I’m rambling now. TL;DR: Kids –> Fear –> Conservatism. ::


1 Of course, these two sets of attributes are not mutually exclusive.2 Also keep in mind that if you’re super liberal then you can still be a parent and not be overly fear-based. The argument is that it moves you *towards* fear — not that it necessarily makes it dominate your life. But if you’re close to the line anyway, and then you have kids, you’re likely to become more conservative. That’s the idea anyway.

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