Boys Who Grow Up With Sisters Are More Likely to Become Republicans
11:15 am, July 25th | by Grace Rasmus
For years researchers have been attempting to identify a genetic or neurological explanation as to what makes one person more conservative or inclined to identify as a Democrat than another. A study by researchers from Loyola Marymount University and Stanford University’s business school has given us some new insight into this phenomenon and the conclusion is pretty surprising: if a boy grows up with a sister, he is more likely to become a Republican.
Researchers found that boys with only a sister were 15 percent more likely to identify as a Republican in high school and they were 13.5 percent more conservative in their views of women’s roles than boys who only had brothers. According to the study, “families with more female children are more likely to reinforce traditional gender roles.”
These gender role perceptions all come down to who does what around the house. The researchers speculate that boys take cues about a woman’s role in the home from an early age and that girls tend to be assigned more traditional chores when they have a brother. Watching their sisters do this housework “teaches” boys that washing dishes and similar labor is women’s work. Boys with only brothers don’t tend to suffer from these biases because their chore assignments are distributed more equally. The impact on men’s gender perceptions is long term but the partisanship fades somewhat as men get older, researchers say.
Sisters don’t just impact their brothers’ political views — perhaps more importantly, they also influence their brothers’ behavior as husbands. The study found that boys with sisters grow up to be men who don’t help much around the house. Middle-aged men who grew up with a sister are 17 percent more likely to say their spouses were responsible for the housework, as compared to men who had only brothers. The study suggests that men’s views of gender roles are permanently affected by their childhood environment. Girls, on the other hand, weren’t affected by having brothers or sisters.
These results surprised researchers, who seemed to believe that growing up with sisters might make men more sympathetic to the plight of women.
“We might expect that boys would learn to support gender equity through interactions with their sisters,” Andrew Healy from Loyola said in a press release about the study. “However, the data suggest that other forces are more important in driving men’s political attitudes, including whether the family assigned chores, such as dishwashing, according to traditional gender roles.”