Whiny child will be an adult Tory, says study

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Depending on your political predilections, you have double reason to be worried if you find your school-age child tends to be the whiny, sit-at-the-back-of-the-class kind. You had better get the child's confidence level up a notch or you may have a future conservative in your nest.

A study by Professor Jack Block of the University of California at Berkeley should be sufficient warning. He has been specialising in this area for years and his conclusions are clear: the boys and girls who are resilient, smooth and sure of themselves end up liberal in their older years.

The research, in the latest Journal of Research into Personality, does not exactly say that Dick Cheney, the Vice President, must therefore have been the most tiresome wimp in school. Or that Al Gore won the school popularity contest. But it comes close. "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 professor found after selecting 90 children for his experiment and following their development over two decades to adulthood.

"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 introspective." Conservatives point out that the pool of children around Berkeley in San Francisco may not be scientifically representative of America.Jeff Greenberg, a social psychologist at the University of Arizona, said: "I found [the study] to be biased, shoddy work, poor science at best."

The columnist Jonah Goldberg said: "If one or two of the whinier kids turn out to be conservative, it might have more to do with the fact that their parents are whiny conservatives. Heck, if I lived in Berkeley, I might be whiny, too."