How Republican and Democratic dads differ—and how they’re alike
Stephen Greene and Laurel Elder write in the Washington Post:
. . . First, the similarities. The oft-repeated stereotypes about red states and blue states hold that liberals are more likely to start families later in life, once both parents have established their careers, while parents in conservative states have children at a younger age and have many more of them . But we found that Republican and Democratic fathers closely resemble one another in terms of the structure of their families. Republican and Democratic dads have the same number of children, an average of 2.4, and on average they start their families at the same age — 28. They are also equally likely to be employed. In other words, the demographic data tells a story of very similar fathers in the two parties.
Where Republican and Democratic dads differ, though, is in their perceptions of the appropriate role of fathers and how they assess their own performance.
Republican dads rate the job they are doing as parents very highly, significantly higher than Democratic fathers rate themselves. This is true even though Republican fathers report spending less time with their children and delegating more of the responsibility of child-rearing to their wives than Democratic fathers do. Republican fathers also embrace a more authoritarian view of parenting than Democratic men: They are more likely to emphasize obedience and good manners in their children over curiosity and self-reliance. (Their embrace of an authoritarian parenting style is not all that surprising, given the well-established link between authoritarian values and Republican identification.)
Both Republican and Democratic dads admit that their wives take on the majority of the responsibility for raising children. Compared with what Republican dads say, however, Democratic fathers see themselves as parenting in a manner much closer to the shared child-care model, in which each spouse handles roughly half of the child-rearing responsibilities. Still, Democratic dads give themselves significantly lower marks as parents than Republican fathers. They are also more likely than Republican dads to report feeling that balancing work and family is very difficult.
In other words, Republican fathers feel good about their role as parents; Democratic dads are much more conflicted.
What accounts for this divide? We might suspect some basic demographic differences between Democrats and Republicans — such as race, education, income, marital status and religious adherence — to be at work here, but our analysis takes these factors into account and finds that this is not the case. Rather, it is likely that the contrasts between Republican and Democratic fathers are rooted in their markedly different expectations about family life, which are in turn reinforced by the parties with which they identify.
Our previous book on parenthood and politics shows that over the past several decades, the parties have polarized on issues of parenthood. . .