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December 16 2013

Study: Having Daughters Makes Parents Republicans

Charlotte Hays

A new study has come out that finds that having daughters is more likely to make parents Republicans than Democrats.

Previous research suggests the opposite, and you never know what the next study is going to say, but New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, the only writer who has ever gone to the New York Times and remained a conservative thinker, savored and explained the new study yesterday in his Sunday column.

Of course, as Douthat notes, the study is gratifying because it runs counter to the conventional wisdom as presented in the mainstream media.

The Democrats, according to the media CW, are better for women, whose rights they protect, while the GOP is waging a “war on women,” about whom they harbor deep and dark attitudes more appropriate to cavemen.

To solve the mystery of why having girls (apparently) makes parents more conservative, Douthat turns to a fictional character, Nathaniel P., in Adelle Waldman’s novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.

Nate is “well intentioned, sensitive, mildly idealistic.” Nate is every parent's nightmare, however, because, though Nate doesn’t want to hurt women, he does:

He provokes [their unhappiness] by taking advantage of a social landscape in which sex has been decoupled from marriage but biology hasn’t been abolished, which means women still operate on a shorter time horizon for crucial life choices — marriage, kids — than do men. In this landscape, what Nate wants — sex, and the validation that comes with being wanted — he reliably gets. But what his lovers want, increasingly, as their cohort grows older — a more permanent commitment — he can afford to persistently withhold, feeling guilty but not that guilty about doing so.  

He provokes it by taking advantage of a social landscape in which sex has been decoupled from marriage but biology hasn’t been abolished, which means women still operate on a shorter time horizon for crucial life choices — marriage, kids — than do men. In this landscape, what Nate wants — sex, and the validation that comes with being wanted — he reliably gets. But what his lovers want, increasingly, as their cohort grows older — a more permanent commitment — he can afford to persistently withhold, feeling guilty but not that guilty about doing so.

To the extent that parents tend to see the next generation’s world through their children’s eyes, that’s an insight that’s more immediately available through daughters than through sons.

Douthat argues that once parents have  “flirted” with this insight about young women, they have “tiptoed” closer to views that might be described as socially conservative.

The study might also reflect the attitudes of parents whose daughters come up against the notoriously unsatisfying (to young women, if not to young men!) hook-up culture on campuses.  

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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