Political Promise

The Effect of Parents on a Child’s Politics

In Archie Manners on September 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Just two weeks after the ecstatic birth of his daughter, David Cameron has suffered the shock and sadness of his father, Ian Cameron. Archie Manners reports.

The Prime Minister said that he was ‘amazing’ and the ‘inspiration’ behind so much of what David Cameron has achieved, especially the ‘Big Society’. Although I never met David Cameron’s father, I have heard that he was a most incredible person I’m told that he was resilient even in the face of his disability, someone who was a true inspiration to many that me met.

For me this posed an important question for young people: How much influence do our parents have on our politics? Are political opinions Nurture over Nature, vice versa or nothing to do with any of that whatsoever.

There are two types of families: Those who are political and those who aren’t. The children of the politically interested families may read a newspaper, and that newspaper is likely to be the same one which their parents read. If it is The Daily Telegraph we are likely to be hit with right-wing views. If it is a left-leaning newspaper then it is probably the opposite. Our parents are influenced by what they read, and then talk about it. The question is, do children think about what their parents say, and what they read and challenge it? Or do they just take it to be true and move on.

For me, that depends on the child. The child who has true political instincts will attempt to think about what they have heard and read. He or she will challenge that view, look at it from different angles and then settle on an opinion, much like most adults. Then of course, there is the rebellious child. That child will automatically disagree with his parents. In the same way that a toddler will refuse to go to bed when asked, purely on principle, the rebellious child who is politicised will rebel from his parents’ views and then get in the habit of doing so, and do so in the future.

I definitely share the same views of my parents. They have been a huge influence in the way I think, and that is because we talk about Politics. We discuss the big issues such as Euthanasia and the Death penalty, and also the more specific such as Bin collections. Many families do not. I believe that often is those children who are the targets of the media: they can be manipulated to believe whatever Mr Murdoch feels like on that day.

There may be many reasons why politics is not discussed in the family – indeed it is a very ‘British’ thing to do. It could be apathy or some other reason. For the children of these families it is likely that there will be an ‘event’ which sparks their political brain. For the majority of people my age it will be 9/11, for my parents age it could the death of JFK. Think now, can you remember where you were on September 11th 2001? Probably. It is these children who are, in my opinion, most influenced by the media. They are not aware of what their parents think. They don’t care what their friends think, because it’s not often talked about. They do however care what the headline of the Sun thinks. For me, this is the most dangerous aspect of our media. People are growing up and believing what they read, rather than thinking about what they hear or read and thinking about it. Oscar Wilde said that ‘A man who does not think for himself does not think at all’. As a result, conversation in families about politics should be massively encouraged, and children should be free to take whatever view on an issue as they like. As long as they are thinking for themselves, then all is good.

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