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Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives

W. Bradford Wilcox
Kathleen Kovner Kline
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Gender and Parenthood
    Book Description:

    The essays in this collection deploy biological and social scientific perspectives to evaluate the transformative experience of parenthood for today's women and men. They map the similar and distinct roles mothers and fathers play in their children's lives and measure the effect of gendered parenting on child well-being, work and family arrangements, and the quality of couples' relationships.

    Contributors describe what happens to brains and bodies when women become mothers and men become fathers; whether the stakes are the same or different for each sex; why, across history and cultures, women are typically more involved in childcare than men; why some fathers are strongly present in their children's lives while others are not; and how the various commitments men and women make to parenting shape their approaches to paid work and romantic relationships. Considering recent changes in men's and women's familial duties, the growing number of single-parent families, and the impassioned tenor of same-sex marriage debates, this book adds sound scientific and theoretical insight to these issues, constituting a standout resource for those interested in the causes and consequences of contemporary gendered parenthood.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53097-2
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION (pp. 1-18)
    W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline

    “BABIES CHANGE EVERYTHING.” It is a refrain often heard by anyone contemplating becoming a parent. From sleep disruption to loss of free time, from financial worries to discipline conundrums, couples are frequently warned that after a baby life will never be the same again. Yet despite how much parenthood can feel like a leap into the unknown, millions of us continue to make that leap, every year. Some of us long for a warm bundle to hold against our chests, a smiling gaze to rivet us, a silly toddler to chase and buy toys for and make a fuss over...

      Kelly G. Lambert and Catherine L. Franssen

      DURING THE BUILDUP to the 2008 presidential election, Beau Biden, son of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, gave a heartfelt introductory speech at the Democratic National Convention. He relayed how after the tragic death of his mother and sister in an automobile accident in 1972, his father, a newly elected senator, had refrained from his duties, stating, “Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can’t get another father.” Once Biden had resumed his work, he commuted to Washington every day (four hours round-trip) so that he could see his children every night.¹ The GOP similarly touted their vice presidential...

    • 2 FAMILY LIFE AND INFANT CARE: Lessons from Cooperatively Breeding Primates (pp. 40-60)
      Charles T. Snowdon

      FOR THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, I have been interested in the reproductive and parental behavior of a group of small primates from South America known as marmosets and tamarins. These monkeys differ from almost all other nonhuman primates in the necessity of multiple caretakers for successful infant care. A cooperative infant care system requires several features: a strong relationship (or pair bond) between the mother and father, the recruitment and keeping of additional helpers (typically older siblings of infants but also unrelated individuals), and close coordination of the behavior of multiple group members in order to provide adequate care for...

      David F. Bjorklund and Ashley C. Jordan

      CHILDREN ARE PROFOUNDLY INFLUENCED by their parents. In fact, parents and families have long been viewed “as the most significant influences on the developing child.”¹ Children owe their very lives to their parents, and how and whether a child grows up will depend on the actions of his or her parents. Although parental effects extend to the genes that guide physical development, our primary focus here is on nongenetic, mainly postnatal, effects. We do not intend to imply that parents are the only significant factor in child development. Peers, for example, play a potent role in many aspects of a...

    • 4 PARENTING × GENDER × CULTURE × TIME (pp. 91-119)
      Marc H. Bornstein

      GENETICS AND ANATOMY PLAY undeniable and consequential parts in defining the self and our roles in life, but being a “girl” or a “boy” has implications that carry considerably beyond the biological. Most of what we believe and how we behave are gendered. Apart from biological influences, socialization pressures, and cultural variation, children universally and normatively develop a reasonably clear sense of self as female or male and master all of the roles generally associated with their assigned gender.¹ Some illustrations bring this point home. Children’s self-perceptions of their strengths in domains such as physical appearance, academics, and athletics contribute...

      Ross D. Parke

      PARENTING IS A GENDERED ACTIVITY, and a variety of differences in the parenting behavior of mothers and fathers have been documented for both humans and animals. The overarching aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of both similarities and differences in parenting behavior of mothers and fathers. The first aim of this chapter is to explore these differences. Since any discussion needs to recognize patterns of similarity as well as differences between parents of different genders, the second aim is highlight the ways in which there is overlap between mothers and fathers in caregiving competence, and in style...

      Ayelet Talmi

      ACROSS DIFFERENT LIFE STAGES, families experience dynamic relational and organizational shifts driven by children’s developmental needs, demographic forces, historical trends, and economic circumstances. Parenting at each stage involves balancing the internal nurturing needs of the family and its members against external factors including resource attainment, education and employment demands, and the sociopolitical context. Here, the underlying assumption is made that both familial and contextual factors interact to impact child outcomes (Bronfenbrenner 1979). With respect to gender differences and similarities across the family life course, questions emerge regarding negotiating division of labor (domestic and paid), childrearing responsibilities, and the suitability of...

      Kathleen Kovner Kline and Brian Stafford

      THIS CHAPTER WILL EXAMINE the essential elements of the “caretaking crucible,” that is, the developmental context that appears to support optimal early child development. We will attempt to provide a dynamic portrait in which the neurophysiological trajectory of child development that begins at conception is shaped by the physical, social, emotional, and cultural contexts in which the young person progresses. Development will be viewed as a multi-layered feedback system, in which a child’s genetic and biological possibilities are shaped by concentric layers of proximal and distant environments, which in turn shape the next stage of genetic and biological possibility.


    • 8 GENDERED PARENTING’S IMPLICATIONS FOR CHILDREN’S WELL-BEING: Theory and Research in Applied Perspective (pp. 215-248)
      Rob Palkovitz

      IN THE MOST GENERAL SENSE, worldwide, mothers and fathers share similar parenting goals of survival, protection, teaching, and fostering self-fulfillment in their offspring.¹ Yet, as parents, men and women approach their shared goals through differentiated roles, styles, and levels of behavior. In addition, mothers and fathers may have unique individual aspirations for their children’s development. Parents’ hopes and dreams, concerns and fears, may be different for sons and daughters. Consequently, mothers and fathers treat sons and daughters differently. These facets of gendered parenting interact to influence developmental competencies and well-being of children in different ways. This chapter reviews theoretical and...

      David J. Eggebeen

      THE EVIDENCE IS IN, and it is clear that fathers do matter in the lives of their children. Literally hundreds of studies over the past two decades have consistently demonstrated that fathers have a measureable impact on children (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, and Lamb 2000; Parke 2002; Paquette 2004). Studies show that infants are positively affected by the interactions and care given by their fathers (Pedersen 1980; Yogman 1982). Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources they bring to their family predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction (Marsiglio...

    • 10 NO ONE BEST WAY: Work-Family Strategies, the Gendered Division of Parenting, and the Contemporary Marriages of Mothers and Fathers (pp. 271-303)
      W. Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew

      THE GENDER REVOLUTION of the last half-century has dramatically reshaped the nature, quality, and stability of marriage and parenthood in the United States. A half-century ago, most married mothers did not work outside the home, and most men and women preferred this arrangement. But over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, mothers streamed into the labor force, fathers devoted more time to childcare and housework, and public opinion largely swung behind these changes, with most Americans expressing normative support for working mothers, as well as for more egalitarian relationships between mothers and fathers in the home...

    • 11 THE EFFECT OF GENDER-BASED PARENTAL INFLUENCES ON RAISING CHILDREN: The Impact on Couples’ Relationships (pp. 304-321)
      Scott Haltzman

      WHILE THE PERCENTAGE OF AMERICAN women conceiving children has declined in the past generation—from 90 percent in 1976 to 82 percent in 2000 (Schodolski 2005)—the vast majority of women has, or wishes to have, children. (Neal, Groat, and Wicks 1989). Most households in which fertile women live will, at one point or another, have a child who will also reside in that household. When women who give birth choose to identify a father of that child, and choose to live with him, together they share the responsibility of raising that child (or children). In contrast, when parents who...

    • 12 SINGLE MOTHERS RAISING CHILDREN WITHOUT FATHERS: Implications for Rearing Children with Male-Positive Attitudes (pp. 322-338)
      William Doherty and Shonda Craft

      THE HISTORICALLY HIGH NUMBER of children being raised by single mothers without the physical presence of a biological father has been the focus of political, sociological, and psychological scrutiny for well over three decades. Recent data suggest that the scholarly and public debate will not abate any time soon. Dye (2008) explored the fertility trends of American women using data drawn from two surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2006, the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey. An estimated four million women between the ages of fifteen and fifty years old were reported to have had...

  7. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS (pp. 339-340)
  8. INDEX (pp. 341-364)