Mom is No. 1

May 10, 1998

I HAVE been taking surveys and making analyses of heroes and heroism since the mid-1980s. And in most surveys, Mom is the No. 1 hero.

We use a very simple technique. We ask people to list and rank their top heroes -- male and female -- living or dead. I do not define hero, leaving that up to the respondents.

I question such research done by others because often they skew the results by asking respondents to list their most admired public officials.

Thus, a false impression has been created that the public largely regards public figures such as former U.S. presidents as heroes. We eliminated such leading questions and discovered that mother was overwhelmingly the top female hero and father the top male hero.

Father has nearly always received fewer votes than mother. Mother is ranked somewhat higher by both sons and daughters, and fathers usually get their highest rankings from daughters, not sons. Sigmund Freud would have liked that.

Frank Farley is a psychology professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Pub Date: 5/10/98

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