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Children of Founding Fathers played a big role in forming U.S. government, Constitution

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy (Public Domanin)

PROVO, Utah — New BYU research published in the American Journal of Political Science suggests the children of our Founding Fathers played a fairly significant role in forming the government of a new Republic. 

BYU professor of political science Jeremy Pope studied the delegates of the Constitutional Convention and how the gender of their own children influenced their voting. The study found that fathers who had more sons were more likely to vote for a stronger national government than fathers of daughters, who wanted a weaker national government with greater state authority. Other studies confirm that child gender does indeed affect parental behavior even in modern-day law and policy.

While there were many factors that influenced our founders when it came to voting on and implementing policy during the early years of our Republic, family life was especially important. According to records from the Philadelphia convention, many references were made to the children of the Founding Fathers, showing how passionate they were about protecting their future descendants when it came to laying the groundwork for a new government.

“Gender is important wherever you are in history,” according to Pope. “Gender effects change over time, but they play a much bigger role in politics than we think they do.”

Researchers believe the delegates with more sons tended to favor larger national government possibly in order to create positions for their sons to fill.

“If you are a father of daughters in 1787, you worry about family connections that hinge more on marrying your daughter and not about a career,” said Pope. “Whereas if you have sons, you need places for them to go that are honorable and provide good careers.”

Analyzing the data, which included notes of the deliberations and family dynamics, Pope and BYU student Soren Schmidt found that the effects of child gender were just as prominent as the other factors and among the most important influences on the delegates.

“Our research shows that the differences driven by the gender of the delegates’ children were big enough to affect the Convention’s proceedings and therefore the structure of the U.S. Constitution itself,” said Schmidt. “In other words, it mattered deeply that our Founding Fathers were also actual fathers.”

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