Last week, the Journal of Politics published a study on why boys with sisters are more likely to express Republican viewpoints in adulthood, especially when it comes to gender roles in society.
This analysis commenced as a series of surveys in 1987 and followed 3,000 respondents ages 10 and over until 2006 and 2008, when they were assessed again. Using intricate mathematical techniques to identify causal relationships, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’s Children and Young Adults found that boys who grew up with sisters are 8.3% more inclined to associate with the Republican Party and socially conservative values.
The study mentions that the reason behind this causality has to do with the observation that “sisters are more likely than their brothers to help wash the dishes, sweep the floor, and do other traditionally gender-stereotyped tasks around the house,” and that this early stereotyping contributes to socially conservative sentiments later in life.
For example, in a study collected by the University of Michigan’s Political Socialization Panel Study, where the same group was interviewed four times between 1965 and 1997, men in their 40s with sisters were 12.3% more likely to agree with the statement “Mothers should remain at home with young children and not work outside the home” than men with only brothers by the time of the final survey.
While this study’s hypothesis isn’t wholly off base, the causality isn’t necessarily a result of having female siblings — it is a result of the parenting that happened in those households during those times, a factor which is not fully explored in the study at all. The generations examined throughout these surveys were not quite at the cusp of the parenting movement we see today, one that encourages little girls to be construction workers if they want to, encourages little boys to love Barbie dolls, and provides girls with the foundations of high achievement and boys with the self-assuredness to nurse patients without having their personal character questioned.
In a word, this study is a bit antiquated. The parenting styles of the 70s, 80s, and 90s don’t look anything like today, and if the little boys of 1968 and 1987 are coming out for the GOP it is something to be said about the parenting styles of those eras, not because “there are sisters in the family.”
Siblings do have a major impact on personal identity, maybe even political opinion, but let us all keep our eyes on the roots of what sets the positive patterns of our children and their collective futures — that is, the wholesome, proactive, and supportive parenting that each child requires.