Political Roles of Presidential Children: FDR Through Clinton


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Virginia Tech


There are many facets of the institution of the presidency that warrant examination. Individual presidents, cabinets, staffs, wives...have all been studied in depth but one aspect of the presidency still remains fundamentally unexplored: the presidents' children and the political roles that each has had or has the potential to have.

This thesis is based upon role analysis and the basic assumption that all presidential children from FDR through Clinton have performed political roles. Among the 32 presidential children studied, four roles were designated. First is the role of symbol. Symbols serve to display the presidential candidate or president as a person that is a good family man, loving father, and someone with high moral integrity. Surrogates serve to stand in for the president when the president cannot be present. The bulk of a surrogate's role takes place on the campaign trail. Informal advisors/confidant(e)s provide opinions and advice to the president. Lastly, skeletons tend to embarrass the president. If an individual presidential child performs several of these roles equally, they have been labeled as hybrids. Each of the 32 children from FDR through Clinton have been categorized in one of the above roles and their actions are analyzed in depth.

Through the course of the thesis, three hypotheses are tested. The first two are whether or not the political roles of presidential children vary be age and by sex. The third hypothesis is whether or not there is an increased need for symbols and surrogates as 1960 as opposed to before.



Presidency, Presidential Children, Role Analysis