Study: Children raised to have strong beliefs also more likely to rebel against those beliefs

It’s understandable that parents with strong beliefs would feel it is their duty to see their children adopt those beliefs. But, however well-meaning these efforts are, they may be in vain. A study recently published in the British Journal of Political Science, based on data from the U.S. and U.K., found that parents who are insistent that their children adopt their political views inadvertently influence their children to abandon the belief once they become adults. The mechanism is perhaps surprising: Children who come from homes where politics is a frequent topic of discussion are more likely to talk about politics once they leave home, exposing them to new viewpoints—which they then adopt with surprising frequency.

The study, led by researcher Elias Dinas, also shows that these changes are especially likely to happen during the college years. Conservative culture warriors have warned for years that universities are outposts of liberal indoctrination—and the study seems to confirm at least some of that warning.

“Extreme parental views of the world give children a clear choice for being with the parents through agreement, or against parents through disagreement,” says Carl Pickhardt, an author and child psychologist. “Thus extremely rigid views of right/wrong, trust/distrust, love/hate can be embraced by children who want to stay connected to parents, and can be cast off by children who, for their own independence, are willing to place the parental relationship at risk.”