October 23, 2012: Well-timed research from R. Chris Fraley, an associate professor , at left, of the University of Illinois' Dept. of Psychology, suggests that the political opinions of adults are formed by experiences and circumstances in their childhood.
Released yesterday, and published in the on-line (subscription only) journal, Psychological Science, the study's results were derived from following 708 children who had participated in a longitudinal study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
As reported in Toronto's Globe and Mail:
... When children were one month old, parents were asked about their parenting styles. Mothers were asked about their child’s temperaments at 4.5 years of age...[and] researchers later interviewed the children at age 18.
Parents were considered authoritarian if they agreed with statements such as “children should always obey their parents,” and parents with “egalitarian parenting attitudes” agreed with statements such as “children should be allowed to disagree with their parents.”
Children were categorized with labels of restlessness, “attentional focusing,” shyness, passivity and fear.
The researchers found that “children with authoritarian parents were more likely to have conservative attitudes at age 18, even after accounting for their gender, ethnic background, cognitive functioning and socioeconomic status,” according to the release. And children of the more egalitarian parents were more likely to be liberals.
When it came to the children’s temperaments, kids who were most fearful at 54 months were more likely to be conservative at 18, the APS reports. And “children with higher levels of activity or restlessness and higher levels of attentional focusing were more likely to espouse liberal values at that age.”
Fraley received his PhD from the University of California, Davis in 1999 in Social-Personality Psychology. In 2007 he received the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in the area of Individual Differences. His research involves the study of attachment processes in close relationships, personality dynamics and development, and research methods. He is also broadly interested in issues at the interface of social cognition, development, evolution, and psychodynamics.