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Study: Teens With Very Conservative Parents Most Likely to Have Excellent Mental Health

Study: Teens With Very Conservative Parents Most Likely to Have Excellent Mental Health

Adolescents who have “very conservative” parents are 16 to 17 percent more likely to have good or excellent mental health compared to teenagers with liberal parents, according to new research by Gallup.

The fascinating finding was made in June 2023 and features in a comprehensive report published last month by the independent, non-partisan Institute for Family Studies (IFS).

“Only 55% of adolescents of liberal parents reported good or excellent mental health compared to 77% of those with conservative or very conservative parents,” the IFS report explains.

The report, authored by Gallup economist and Brookings Institute senior fellow Jonathan Rothwell, concludes that conservative and very conservative parents were the “most likely to adopt the parenting practices associated with adolescent mental health.”

In describing those practices, Rothwell spelt out that “conservative parents enjoy higher quality relationships with their children, characterized by fewer arguments, more warmth, and a stronger bond, according to both parent and child reporting.”

“This relationship between conservativism and parenting remains significant even after controlling for an extensive list of parental demographic and socio-economic measures,” he explains, confirming that the study’s outcomes were consistent regardless of race, ethnicity, household income, education or the sex of the parent.

The recent Gallup finding, noted even by Fox News, pairs well with longstanding research showing that people who identify as politically liberal report lower levels of happiness and psychological well-being than conservatives: the so-called “well-being gap.”

Intended or not, the IFS report effectively flips sweeping secular narratives about politics and parenting on their head.

While popular culture commonly portrays the discipline of conservative parents as repressive and even harmful, the data shows it is in fact a strong predictive factor of excellent mental health for teenagers.

But it goes deeper.

In the face of a secular paradigm that decries any boundary as depriving young people of freedom, the data show that discipline in fact results in youth who are much freer and significantly less encumbered by the high rates of depression and anxiety weighing down their peers.

Challenging the notion that conservative parents are strict but unloving, the IFS report uncovered discipline and affectionate warmth as two sides of the same conservative-parenting coin.

In the report, Rothwell also noted the important role that parents’ attitudes towards marriage and their spouses played in an adolescent’s mental health.

Best parenting practices were most commonly found among parents who reported having a strong relationship with their spouse. And adults who have a high view of the institution of marriage, a positive view of their own marriage, and optimism about their child’s future marriage prospects were “significantly more likely to employ responsive, disciplined parenting practices compared to parents who do not hold these views.”

So much for the idea, so commonly bandied about today, that marriage is an outdated institution or a ball-and-chain around one’s ankle.

Perhaps the most optimistic finding in the report is that adolescents’ mental health is not pre-determined but malleable—and very much within the purview of parents.

Rothwell explains that while one of the tasks of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is to document adolescent mental health problems and identify the most effective ways to prevent them, the agency’s “summary pages and recommendations on youth mental health … almost completely ignore the most important known determinant of youth mental health: parent-child relationships.” Instead, the CDC urges parents to seek out mental health experts for assistance in dealing with teen depression and related problems.

Speaking with Fox News, Rothwell called this situation “very disappointing” and lacking a scientific foundation.

“It’s kind of easier to tell parents that if your teen is struggling, it’s not your fault, it’s not anything that you’re doing, it’s probably just something in their genes,” he said.

In reality, notes Rothwell, “Teenage biology hasn’t changed but depressive symptoms have.”

If the popular narrative gets so much wrong about parenting and politics, then perhaps the time-tested path of love and discipline should be returned to its rightful place in homes across America.

And if the power over children’s mental wellbeing rests with parenting, then surely there is hope for the nation’s youth—if parents are up to the task.

Image credit: Pexels

Kurt Mahlburg
Kurt Mahlburg

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  • Avatar
    Chris Robert Hughes
    December 27, 2023, 4:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing this while it is sharable, Kurt. There is currently a movement to expunge non-left-narrative research. I have already seen much of that happening. Research on fatherlessness is similarly clear as the most robust correlative factor influencing crime. But more recently, explanations of crime must be reduced to poverty, and poverty to racism.

  • Avatar
    December 27, 2023, 5:09 pm

    From the title of the essay, one must immediately think…."Well,….Duh?" It should not be surprising that the CDC would recommend "professional help." The Agency itself is operated and directed by "government employees." When are people going to understand that those individuals in society who seek a life of protection and shelter from risk, will never be or even be part of any advancement of knowledge, wealth creation of advancement of any kind. Government employment is an essential admission that had you been given the choice prior to coming into this world, you would have selected to endure existence as a grass plant, or perhaps a small shrub. Also, keep in ind that psychology and psychiatry are not real sciences…….they are "authoritative opinions" and nothing else. As Rupert Sheldrake calls it – "intellectual phase-norming." It is the communion wafer of the social Marxists.

  • Avatar
    Chris Robert Hughes
    December 27, 2023, 5:10 pm

    BTW When the god you fear is the climate, you have a very fearful god indeed (see Greta Thunberg). When the God you fear is Jesus (read "very conservative parents"), there is safety, hope, and love.

  • Avatar
    Rick Gordon
    December 27, 2023, 10:43 pm

    So if your parents gave you freedom with responsibility and accountability, ie., some rules and restrictions to grow and learn by – you have a better chance of becoming a responsible adult – one who can set goals and work towards those that are meaningful to them over a significant time period.

  • Avatar
    December 27, 2023, 11:52 pm

    I know personally at least a hundred children age 12 to 20. They are, every one, intelligent. self-motivated and disciplined, friendly, widely read, talented, fun to be around, look after those around them, take correction well, are HAPPY as they go about their daily business. They help teach the little ones, bringing them up as they have been brought up. Any of them would excel in college but probably no more than five or maybe ten will attend college. EVERY ONE of them knows how to prosper, some have their own businesses that bring in impressive amounts of money, but they do them because they love it. Most of them above the age of fourteen or so are emotionally and intellectually mature enough they COULD easily marry, and some have. They are doing well. I also know their parents and older siblings, and these kids are exactly like their parents were twenty or so years ago. Funny thing that.. NOT ONE has gotten into any mischief that could land them in jail, all of them know absolutely their gender, Those that drive are amongst the safest drivers Ive ridden with ever. All are "go'getters" but not obnoxiously so. I could them as dear friends, just as I do their parents,many of which I've known for years, even since they were just born. Many of these children are older than their parents were when I met them years ago.
    And yes, their parents are in strong faithful marriages, they all communicate, work things out, and yes, I would classify every one of them as "conservative". I will also say boldly that every one of them has their life solidly centred on the Lord and His teachings in the bible.
    I also know a much smaller group, same age range, children of broken homes, unstable marriages, of a "liberal" value set. These kids are needy, immature, unstable, bent toward trouble, easily swayed, given to depression and instability, insecure, looking to find their identity/worth in unwholesome activities and "friends".
    The difference between these two groups is stark, near universal, unmistakable….. I am glad to know, as well, that many of the smaller group have developed some strong friendships with the larger group, and the larger more stable group does have a strong and positive influence on the smaller group, to the point that their parent(s) notice a difference when the smaller group have spent extended time round the larger group.
    I would say from my own personal observation over a few decades that the basic premise of the authors of the study you cite are on very solid ground. I've seen it lived out before me for a few decades. This "larger group" and their values,, way of thinking and living. give me much hope that we DO indeed have a solid futute ahead, based on what I see in these kids.

    • Avatar
      Daniel Burk@Tionico
      January 19, 2024, 4:08 pm

      This is my personal experience, too. My observation is that the kids with engaged parents who put up boundaries enable their kids to grow in both experience, and in the ability to moderate their own behavior, which provides them the tools necessary to conceive, plan for, and achieve long-term goals.


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