Men more interested in politics – because of how children are raised

New research suggests that men are much more likely to say they’re interested in politics, that the gap between boys and girls has opened up by the time they’re teenagers, and it’s down to differences in the way we raise them.

The research looks at data from the British Household Panel Survey, the forerunner of Understanding Society which ran from 1991 to 2009. It shows that at the age of 15, young men are, on average, 20% more likely than young women to declare themselves interested in politics, and that this gap opens up a further 10% by the time they’re 25.

The research, by Marta Fraile, Permanent Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Goods and Policies (CSIC), and Irene Sánchez‐Vítores at the European University Institute, was published in the journal Political Psychology in May.

The researchers argue that, if such large differences between young boys and girls appear at such an early stage, the way they are brought up is likely to be responsible. They suggest that a combination of influences from family, school, friends and the media is encouraging young men to be interested in politics, but not young women. They also cite earlier research suggesting that gender differences in political awareness can be seen in children as young as six – which indicates that family life is probably an important factor in giving children ideas about the roles of women and men in public and family life.

Marta Fraile says, “Western democracies have been trying to make politics less of a ‘men's game’ in recent years, but women still appear to be less interested in politics. We run for office less than men, and are more likely to take part at the fringes – by being activists or school governors, for example. As long as this gender gap remains, it will be difficult to achieve equality in political representation.”

Read the research