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The Father as an Idea: A Challenge to Kinship Boundaries by Single Mothers

Rosanna Hertz
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 25, No. 1 (2002), pp. 1-31
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.2002.25.1.1
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/si.2002.25.1.1
Page Count: 31
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The Father as an Idea: A Challenge to Kinship Boundaries by Single Mothers
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Abstract

In separating parenthood from partnership, women have created new family forms in which men may be involved but not as traditional fathers. Through in-depth interviews with single middle-class women, I compare families created with anonymous donors to those created with known donors. In the former cases, mothers craft imagined fathers as their children become "looking glasses" into the men they will probably never meet. These children must rely on the mothers' imagination to create a sense of the fathers' view of them. While known donors are not "dads" either, the mothers help these children imagine positive fathers, often through more concrete, personal knowledge, and these fathers often know the children from a distance. In an interesting manner, although children may be created without men as physically present "dads," women contextualize the donors that allowed them to become mothers through acknowledging the social ways that blood kinship creates families. They ultimately reaffirm certain kinds of kinship rather than challenge them.

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