Parenting and Politics: Exploring Early Moral Bases of Political Orientation


  • Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
  • Nate C. Carnes
  • Sana Sheikh


Based on Lakoff’s (2002) Strict Father and Nurturant Parent metaphors for political conservatism and liberalism respectively, two studies explored parenting styles, political ideology, and the moral orientations that might link the two. Restrictive parenting (by both mother and father) predicted political conservatism, and this path was mediated by a strong Social Order orientation (Study 1) reflecting, more broadly, an inhibition-based proscriptive morality (Study 2). Political liberalism was associated with a Social Justice orientation, but was not predicted by nurturant parenting in either study. Study 1 included mothers’ reports of their own parenting, and these were correlated with the students’ responses. Findings support a restrictive moral underpinning for conservatism, but raise questions about the assumed unique association between parental nurturance and political liberalism, which is addressed in the discussion.