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Who Cares for Children in Public Places? Naturalistic Observation of Male and Female Caretakers

Paul R. Amato
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 51, No. 4 (Nov., 1989), pp. 981-990
DOI: 10.2307/353210
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353210
Page Count: 10
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Who Cares for Children in Public Places? Naturalistic Observation of Male and Female Caretakers
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Abstract

The method of naturalistic observation was used to study children and their male and female adult caretakers in public places. Observations were collected in San Diego, California (n = 2,050), and Lincoln, Nebraska (n = 450). Overall, 42.5% of children had men as their primary caretaker. The rate of male involvement was higher for boys than for girls, higher for older than for younger children, higher in recreational settings than in commercial settings or restaurants, higher in mixed-sex dyads than in other types of groups or among single adults, and higher among Caucasians than among Asians. The percentage of children with male caretakers did not differ between San Diego and Nebraska; however, men in Nebraska distinguished between younger and older children more strongly than did men in California. The results suggest that naturalistic observation can generate data sensitive enough to test a variety of hypotheses about male involvement with children.

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