An article in today's Toronto Star looks at a new study that purports to show that whiny children grow up to be conservatives. The study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is interesting in that it is longitudinal. It studied 95 kids for decades. UC Berkeley professor Jack Block found that:
"The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
"The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective."
Now, after reading this (and seeing it everywhere on the Internet) the study bothered me. The Toronto Star says Block acknowledges Berkeley isn't the bellwether of the country politically, but:
"He says, the results hold. He reasons that insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics."
What bothers me here is the assumption that tradition and authority are found only in conservative politics. That is a big assumption. The dogmatic nature of the left can be just as rigid and stultifying, and many people of that political persuasion have a damned poor view of heterodoxy. (Go here for an article in Slate by Will Saletan on abortion orthodoxy on the left, and I would throw in gender roles, race, labor, and a few others. And don't even get me started on this piece from The New York Times today about tourist orthodox lefties swallowing Hugo Chavez's propaganda hook, line and sinker.)
If you're looking for a comfortable, predictable line that helps think your whiny thoughts for you, I'd say leftist ideology is also great, and would suffice.
A more interesting question might be, (instead of defining left as being open and loose, and right as being tight and controlled) what personality traits of children turn into political and ideological rigidity of any sort as adults? My money is that it's the whiny ones. So next time, give 'em something to really cry about.
Update: Michelle Malkin put up the full study here. After reading the whole thing I still think the conclusions are fairly weak. But I'm sure there are better-educated readers out there who may disagree with me.