Individuals who have developed severe anxiety in their children are more likely to support dominant leaders

Individuals who have developed severe anxiety in their children are more likely to support dominant  ...

According to new research in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, childhood experiences can predict leadership preferences in adulthood. Interestingly, individuals who experience greater adversity in childhood are less likely to invest in social relationships, which in turn is linked to enabling dominant leaders.

The present topic is dominated by a puzzle in our society: what drives popular political support for dominant, authoritarian leaders even in peaceful times in today? According to study author Nan Zhu, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Macau

We already know that political support and voting patterns vary wildly over demographics. This makes me believe that dominant rulers like Adolf Hitler or Vladimir Putin might yield adaptive responses within a socio-political reaction norm, which is sensitive to ecological and social conditions. Similar mechanisms might function within smaller organizations such as corporations, organizations, and families. This research project, therefore, seeks to understand the ecological correlates and social pathways to individuals'' preference for dominant leaders.

The researchers conducted an interview with 898 Chinese adults about their current economic conditions and economic conditions in their children. A participant completed the Arizona Life History Battery, an assessment of his life history strategy.

Participants listened to four approaches in which a dominant candidate and a prestigious candidate competed for leadership roles, and asked them to indicate who they preferred. The dominant candidates were described as aggressive, assertive, and intimidating, while the prestigious candidates were described as coworkers, knowledgeable, and acceptable.

Participants who experienced poor economic conditions in childhood reported receiving less support from their relatives and family, which, in turn, was associated with a desire for dominant leaders. This was true even after controlling their current economic situation and other factors.

The researchers analyzed 1,233 Chinese adults in an attempt to replicate and extend their findings. Another measure of childhood resource uncertainty as well as a checklist of negative life events were also collected.

According to Zhu and his colleagues, childhood adversity was linked to a preference for dominant leaders through reduced social investment. Those who witnessed increased childhood resource insecurity and negative life events were more likely to disagree with statements such as I am emotionally attached to my family and my friends, such that their happiness is also my happiness. In turn, participants preferred dominant leaders over prominent leaders.

Zhu said that leadership preference should be considered a individual-difference trait and that this concern should be integrated into a developmentally plastic strategy that has been established by early experiences and individuals investing in social networks. Imagine two leadership styles co-existing in our society: dominant leaders are those who exert power through intimidation and coercion and achieve their status via the fear and respect of followers.

The advantages of dominant leaders are that they protect followers from the exploits of deviants and defectors in in-group discussions (and the followers do not need to do anything beyond conformity). Prestigious leaders are those who exert influence through information sharing or prosocial contributions and attain their status via freely conferred deference among followers. To gain additional benefits from prestigious leaders, they must build up and engage in long-term relationships.

People who experienced resource insecurity or other adversity during childhood are less willing to invest in social relationships, which makes them more dependent on the protection of dominant leaders but, despite, less likely to benefit from prestigious leadership, according to Zhu.

These findings are consistent with a previous research, which found that increased early childhood harshness was associated with a preference for authoritarian leadership in adulthood. However, it is still unclear whether childhood conditions may cause lasting changes in leadership choices.

According to Zhu, these findings are evidence of correlation. We do not believe that dominant leaders'' preferences are linked to childhood adversity or lack of relational investment. Moreover, we must make some research to validate these findings.

Despite the fact that these two research participants are from China, which has both authoritarian and prestigious leadership traditions, Zhu added. Although the political system in the Chinese country is still characterized by a central one-party structure, the Confucian cultural norm indicating ideal leadership, which remains prevalent among the Chinese people, is quite in line with the prestige-based leadership style.

Despite our assumptions, the highly diverse society of contemporary China (in terms of socioeconomic status and socio-political ideologies) is also useful. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to try to replicate our findings in other societies, especially in equally diverse societies with a fully democratic political system.

Nan Zhu, Bin Bin Chen, Hui Jing Lu, and Lei Chang, who authored the study, Life-history calibration of social hierarchies: Childhood adversity predicts leadership preference through relational social investment.

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