A recently published op-ed suggests that parents’ political ideologies are having a devastating effect on their teenagers’ mental health — resulting in “persistent sadness or hopelessness,” especially among teenage girls.
Researcher and essayist John Mac Ghlionn, who has a doctorate in psychosocial studies, made the assertion in his op-ed for the New York Post on Saturday — citing several studies and a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“American teenagers are having a tough time. Teenage girls are having a particularly tough time. According to a recent CDC report, nearly 60 percent of U.S. teen girls experience persistent sadness or hopelessness, double the rate of boys,” he wrote.
“In 2021, said the report, 30 percent of teen girls seriously considered committing suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago. What is going on? Why have young people suddenly become so disillusioned?” Ghlionn asked.
The researcher went on to note that we are constantly told that social media is to blame, but that is not entirely the case — parents are also responsible for a significant amount of problems experienced by teenagers today.
“Children do not raise themselves — and the attitudes and ideologies of their primary caregivers have a profound impact on their mental wellbeing,” Ghlionn explained.
“This includes political ideologies, which experts now conclude can directly shape how a child sees the world. And liberal parents appear to be creating a generation of left-leaning and deeply disaffected children,” he argued.
Ghlionn then cited a mainstream study that supports his argument.
“Consider a recent study out of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology. Released in December, the research – which focused on the intersections of gender and politics – revealed that teens who identify as liberal are much more likely to be unhappy than teens with more conservative views,” he wrote.
“According to the report, female adolescents are more likely to be liberal than male adolescents. And liberal girls are the most prone to depression. How prone? Between 2010 and 2018, they noted, symptoms of depression rose by more than 50% for ‘female liberals,’” Ghlionn added.
Liberal boys reportedly saw lower increases in depressive behaviors than girls, according to Ghlionn, though those numbers were still higher than conservative girls. Conservative boys ultimately had the lowest increase in depressive symptoms, with their numbers equaling half the numbers for liberal girls.
“All teenagers are getting worse, it seems, but liberal teens are getting worse at a much faster rate,” he explained.
Around 2013, another thing happened. What have we done to make our kids unhappy?
From the research paper: https://t.co/gU3KEDF2O3
"The politics of depression: Diverging trends in internalizing symptoms among US adolescents by political beliefs" #mentalhealth #youngpeople https://t.co/2HjbzeRDOF pic.twitter.com/naoLgth1TY
— MoshangUSA (@MoshangUsa) March 1, 2023
The study’s authors were not able to conclude the exact cause of these teenagers’ depressive behaviors were, though they did suggest that variations in “worldview” may be responsible.
It is clear to most objective observers that the left-wing worldview is bleaker than conservatives’ worldview.
“Progressives, today, are more likely to see the U.S. as an inherently racist, unjust place. It’s harder to feel positive about the world if you fundamentally believe it sucks,” Ghlionn asserted.
“Of course, teens do not develop ideologies in a vacuum – again, social media is hard at work here. But even though nearly all U.S. teenagers – of nearly all beliefs – are now on social media, most manage to remain relatively mentally fit. Which is where parents come in,” he added.
“Because, more often than not, teens adhere to the political beliefs of their parents – particularly mothers, according to research from political scientist Grant Michael Armstrong. That’s bad news for children whose parents lean left,” Ghlionn explained.
An article for Psychology Today written by Scott McGreal seemed to agree with this analysis, stating: “People with conservative political attitudes tend to have better health than their liberal counterparts, largely because the former place greater value on personal responsibility.”
Ghlionn also cited a recent Pew survey that found a connection between left-wing beliefs and mental health issues. The study showed that over 60% of White respondents who describe themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal” have been diagnosed with mental health problems — which is twice the rate of conservatives and three times the rate of moderates.
“While the differences can be explained by left-leaning types more likely to seek out health care, research also suggests behavioral factors,” Ghlionn asserted. “The most compelling is religious affiliation and practices, which are more common among conservatives and can act as a sort of buffer against depression – particularly among religious teens.”
“And of all the mental health problems plaguing American teens, depression appears to be one of the more severe. Rates of depression were rising long before the pandemic. And again, social media is certainly playing a role,” he added.
Left-leaning teenagers aren’t the only ones facing these mental health problems, as their parents are struggling as well.
“But, so too are parents. According to a report by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), parents with mental health issues – particularly mothers – are to have children with higher levels of mental health issues. And as that Pew study revealed, in the U.S., liberal women are the most likely to be dealing with mental health issues,” Ghlionn wrote.
“There’s also evidence that all those neurotic ‘helicopter’ parents are, unsurprisingly, creating neurotic children. Indeed, like height and intelligence, neuroticism is simply a trait that can be inherited,” he added.
Ghlionn concluded his op-ed by arguing that teenagers should be allowed to make the decision about their political leaning without being pressured.
“There are both genetic and environmental components to depression,” he wrote. “And teens seem to be most impacted by this intersection of nature-vs-nurture. True, left-leaning families appear to be producing more depressed teens. But allowing young people of all political persuasions to affirm their own ideologies isn’t just a necessary right of passage, but a path to keeping them mentally fit and stable.”
A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal made similar assertions. Fox News host Dan Bongino discussed the issue on his show “Unfiltered” with child psychologist Dr. Daniel Amen.