What Our Elites Don’t Want Us Knowing About Parents’ Part In Youth Mental Health

By Tom Gilson Published on December 17, 2023

It could have been just another ho-hum, “Everyone knows that!” research report. You’ve seen those before, like the one that proved Facebook friends aren’t necessarily real friends, or this wasted study that proves exercise is still good for you when you’re over 60 years old. Not this time, though.

And not even with an all-too-obvious title like “Parenting Is the Key to Adolescent Mental Health.” This one came out of the Gallup Organization. It shows that parents matter, sure enough. But it also reveals just how doggedly our country’s elites care about their own agenda, and how little they care about children.

Sniffing Out an Agenda

Author Jonathan Rothwell points to our mighty CDC’s data sheet on youth mental health, which lists exactly two factors contributing to the problem: poverty and racism. Smell an agenda there? Then how about this for an answer?

Being raised by liberal parents is a much larger risk factor for mental health problems in adolescence than being raised in a low-income household with parents who did not attend college. … The gap is large.

If that weren’t trouble enough, there’s this, besides:

I have yet to find a scholar who has studied rising youth mental health problems and concluded that it is explained by racial or ethnic discrimination.

Liberal agendas don’t stand up well against real facts. Best not to mention the facts, then, if you’re on the left. Just repeat the talking points, repeat the talking points, repeat, repeat. …  And never, ever mention that parents have anything to do with their kids’ lives!

Not Just the Government

It isn’t only the government: Mainstream pediatric medical associations are in on it, too. Several of these groups  joined together to produce a “Declaration of Emergency” on youth mental health. Like the CDC’s fact sheet, their paper raises the alarm on depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicidality among children. Also like the CDC, the medical establishment has nationwide recommendations. And again like the CDC, their advice makes no mention of parents or parenting whatsoever.

The message is clear: Parents are irrelevant. The nation’s children are in crisis, and it’s up to the nation to solve it. What we need is more mental health treatment centers. Less poverty. Less racism. I don’t disagree with any of that. I’m just astonished at the silent treatment given to parents.

Rothwell writes,

The [CDC] emphasizes diagnosis, access to mental health services, and the avoidance of racial/ethnic discrimination as among the most important issues in youth mental health. Deeper in the agency’s archives, one can find resources mentioning that “a child’s mental health is supported by their parents,” but the page discusses the issue as providing motivation to improve parental mental health. These are relevant issues, but they are odd things to emphasize.

Racism After All?

If you read the CDC paper carelessly you might think it proved its point against Rothwell’s, citing evidence to show that racial discrimination is hard on youths who experience it. It’s true enough, and I can’t imagine any fair-minded person who would doubt it or make light of it.

But it’s also a case of apples vs. oranges. It’s one thing to say racial discrimination is hard on those children, as it surely must be. It’s another thing to identify racism as one of the top two or three most important factors explaining the crisis afflicting youth nationwide.

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Or to put it another way, of course racial discrimination is a huge factor for children who suffer it, and well worth caring about. But it’s not so huge that if we took it away somehow, our nation’s overall youth mental health would improve much. There’s a lot more than racism causing fear, anguish, loneliness, and depression in our kids. A lot. And it isn’t mostly poverty, and isn’t primarily racism. The biggest factor, now as always, is their parents. 

Where Racism Really Hides

I see several things here that our caretaker liberal elite don’t want us paying notice to.

The first one is, circumstances aren’t destiny. It’s possible to grow up in a poor family without having poor mental health. Bad situations don’t automatically produce bad coping skills. With good parents, children can learn to live their best even when things are worst.

Read me carefully on that, please. I’m not saying bad circumstances aren’t bad. I’m saying people can rise above them. And if the CDC thinks there’s something special about racial discrimination that makes that impossible, they might as well just come out and admit they think America’s people of color don’t have what it takes. Since time began, they seem to think, good people of every race have risen above their circumstances – everyone but blacks today in America.

It’s ridiculous, it’s racist and dehumanizing, and besides that, the data show it isn’t true. If our government says blacks in America have mental health problems they can’t solve without whites taking better care of them, then the government has a disturbingly low image of blacks.

Elite Hatred for Marriage and Family

Second, it shows our elites’ hatred for marriage and family. It’s the same thing we saw in the surgeon general’s report on “epidemic loneliness” a few months ago, which completely ignored both marriage and divorce. It’s transparently false. Is there anyone anywhere who can’t see that?

Apparently there is. More likely, they see it as well as the rest of us, but they don’t dare speak it aloud. Marriage and family are the state’s top hindrance to complete control. Never forget: Hatred for family is straight-up Marxism. If you have a better explanation for elites’ silence on parenting, let me know.

Silence Is … Less Embarrassing

Third, and finally, there’s the embarrassment factor: The more liberal the parent, the more mental health problems their children tend to have. (For the most part: It moderates slightly with the most liberal parents.)

Adolescents with very conservative parents are 16 to 17 percentage points more likely to be in good or excellent mental health compared to their peers with very liberal parents. Only 55% of adolescents of liberal parents reported good or excellent mental health compared to 77% of those with conservative or very conservative parents. This has largely gone unnoticed, but noted social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has described a similar pattern, using several sources.

Liberal parents come out less warm toward their children; their relationships with their children aren’t as good; and they don’t tend to think much of disciplining their children. All of these are major factors for children’s mental health. Obviously not every liberal parent is a bad parent, and not every conservative is a good one. On the whole, though, if a kid could choose, he’d be way better off picking a conservative family to grow up in.

Not So Surprising After All

You won’t hear the elites talking about any of this. The silence is stunning – and yet not surprising, when you consider where it’s coming from. What else should we expect from the people who think babies are worth keeping alive as long as it’s not too terribly inconvenient?

They act like children are a big deal. “It’s a huge huge crisis! We have to help the kids!” Yes, there’s a crisis. Yes, kids are hurting and they need help. No, we shouldn’t trust liberals to tell us how to do it. They hide their lousy track record while trying to convince the rest of us to follow their lead. Their power grows all the greater. America’s children suffer all the more.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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