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Husband Gatekeeping in Childbirth

Carolyn R. Block, Kathleen L. Norr, Suzanne Meyering, James L. Norr and Allan G. Charles
Family Relations
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Apr., 1981), pp. 197-204
DOI: 10.2307/584131
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/584131
Page Count: 8
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Husband Gatekeeping in Childbirth
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Abstract

Interviews with over 200 new mothers document the husband's role as gatekeeper in his wife's preparing for and coping with childbirth. Because childbirth preparation and use of techniques has a major impact on a woman's childbirth pain and enjoyment, a husband's willingness to participate in childbirth can be critical for the physical comfort and satisfaction of his wife's birth experience. Social class, race, family stage, and the husband-wife relationship explain about 40% of the variance in whether husbands choose to prepare for childbirth. How much active help husbands give during labor is influenced mainly by whether the husband prepared for birth (r = .74). Men who have already had a child and who help their wives at home more, also give more active assistance during labor. Race and social class affect whether a husband takes birth preparation classes, but do not have any additional impact on helpfulness during labor. These results suggest that diffusion of childbirth education beyond upper status whites would yield substantial benefits for working class black couples. Unmarried women and women with disinterested husbands would benefit from arrangements that encouraged alternative support persons during labor.

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