Conservative and very conservative parents are more likely to raise mentally healthy teens compared to liberal parents, according to a new study from the Institute for Family Studies and Gallup.
The results drop amid a nationwide mental youth crisis among youth, stemming partly from the aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. A report released in February by the NC Child Fatality Task Force found that the youth suicide rate has nearly tripled in two decades. North Carolina lawmakers included additional funding for mental health services in the new state budget.
The IFS/Gallup report found that “the most important factor in the mental health of adolescent children is the quality of the relationship with their caregivers.” The key driver is parents who have an “authoritative” style that combines “affection and attentiveness to children’s needs with structure and requirements for pro-social, responsible behavior.”
In contrast, liberal parents are more likely to have a permissive parenting style and “are the least likely to successfully discipline their children.”
“[C]onservative 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,” the report concluded.
“There is no meaningful public effort to educate parents on the best-practice parenting styles that have long been associated with teen mental health,” said the report’s author Jonathan Rothwell, principal economist at Gallup and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a statement. “The results of our report should be seen as empowering parents to play the lead role in guiding their children to healthy psychological development. Their actions, judgments, and relationships are key to their teen’s mental health.”
Importantly, household income, parental education, and race and ethnicity are largely unrelated to the quality of parenting and mental health outcomes for teens, the report found.
Data for the analysis were collected from 2,995 parents of adolescents in June and July of 2023. The survey included measures of adolescent mental health, social media use, parental demographics, political views, and attitudes toward marriage, parenting practices, and parent-child relationships.