BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The presence of children in the White House
will undoubtedly have an impact on the image of the U.S. currently
held by its own citizens and by those in countries around the
world, says Sampson Lee Blair, Ph.D., associate professor of
sociology at the University at Buffalo.
"People tend to perceive a parent, especially a parent of young
children, as kind, nurturing, protective and possessed of a
beneficent nature -- one that is pleasant and concerned about the
well-being of others," says Blair, who studies marriage and the
"Obama will not only be a young president, but a young father,
and it will be assumed that his domestic and foreign policies will
be colored by the effects they will have on his daughters."
Blair says most of us presume that parents, the most important
socialization force in the lives of children, are keenly aware of
their substantial influence on their sons and daughters. As guides,
disciplinarians and role models, they often give considerable
thought to how their choices and actions directly or indirectly
will influence their kids.
Blair says that, given our understanding of this, the fact that
he has young children may have sent more than a few votes Obama's
"As president, I would certainly expect to see Obama looking at
the country, and the rest of the world, through the lens of
fatherhood," Blair says.
"Understandably, most parents want to be able to help their
children to have a better life than they had. Parents want their
children to have both more and better quality education, they want
their children to have a better job (though that may be difficult
for the Obama girls to achieve!) and they want their children to
live in a safe and peaceful world.
"Although virtually every parent aspires to give such things to
their children," he says, "President Obama will be in a unique
position to give these to not only his daughters, but to the entire
generation of children that his daughters represent in his
"This is a very appealing and reassuring proposition for the
public," Blair says. He has two daughters himself and says he found
the idea of having a parent in the White House very appealing.
Blair notes that over the past decade, politicians have directed
much of their attention and action toward appeasing the baby boom
generation. This is quite understandable, he says, because the
boomers do, in fact, make up a large portion of the voting
"Many of that generation are now either retired or rapidly
approaching retirement, however," Blair points out. "With McCain
the face -- literally -- of the Republican ticket, many voters may
have thought his concerns would have a generational quality about
them -- that perhaps the needs of the elderly population would be
given greater attention than those of the younger generation."
He suggests that true or not, a McCain presidency may have been
perceived as likely to direct money toward Medicare, rather than
"This generational divide is made evident by the fact that John
McCain was born years before the baby boom began. Obama, born at
its extreme end," Blair says, "grew up during the Cold War, during
the Vietnam War, during the Watergate scandal and during the
recession of the early 1980s. He has felt the effect of government
policies on American children and adolescents and it has had
consequences for his life and thought."
Blair is director of undergraduate studies in the UB Department
of Sociology. His research and extensive publications focus on the
sociology of the family, child and adolescent development, gender
and ethnicity. He is former senior editor of Sociological
Inquiry and served as an associate editor on the boards of
Social Justice Research, Journal of Family Issues and
Marriage & Family Review.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.