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Childhood Studies Parenting
by
Caroline J. Gatrell

Introduction

Research on parenting, and especially mothering, has been a focus of sociologies and psychologies of parenting and family practices since the 1950s. Research approaches are varied and wide ranging and include concerns about the impact of parenting and paid work on the health of mothers and fathers, feminist studies on the role and position of mothers in society, the manner in which “experts” exert pressure on mothers to parent children according to particular social norms, and the rising importance of children within parents’ everyday lives (especially in relation to paternity). In their seminal text The Normal Chaos of Love, Ulrich Beck and Elizabeth Beck Gernsheim describe the desire of modern parents (both fathers and mothers) to be closely involved with children’s upbringing: (The baby or child is) “superior to other liaisons in our barter and throw-away culture. At least as long as it is young, a child permits one to invest all one’s love and involvement without risk of disappointment, of being hurt and abandoned” (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995, p. 76, cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices). The proliferation of research on parenting, especially in the context of relationships between parenting and paid work, has been attributed by the authors of Lewis, et al. 2007 (cited in Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work) to women’s increased presence within labor markets beginning in the 1970s. This social change, whereby mothers of dependent children increasingly “go out” to work (whereas in the past they might have been expected to remain in the home), has prompted policymakers and scholars across a range of disciplines, including sociology, health, and organizational psychology, to consider the impact on parents and family life. Thus, research seeks to understand how far maternal presence at work affects family life, parenting and child health, and the workplace. In particular, scholars have sought to pinpoint how parents of dependent children are managing to combine employment with what Caroline Gatrell, in her Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood (Gatrell 2005 cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices), has termed the “hard labour” of parenting. This bibliography examines literature on parenting and work, sociologies of parenting and family practices, and mothering and fathering. This article is organized according to these categories in order to represent the transdisciplinary nature of the topic, which has a wide reach.

General Overviews

During the 1970s and 1980s, research on parenting responded to women’s increased participation in the labor market and focused on couples in which both parents were combining parenting with paid work. Academics were concerned with how parents managed to achieve work–life balance and how far conflicts between paid work and parenting led parents to feel stressed. Organizational psychologists and social-policy theorists such as Suzan Lewis and Cary Cooper (Lewis and Cooper 2005, cited under Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work), sought to influence policy in the hopes that corporate employers would introduce and support initiatives to encourage flexible working practices and other mechanisms to reduce the level of work–family conflict experienced by employed parents. It was felt that such initiatives would reduce parental stress and have a beneficial impact on parents’ health and, consequently, their family lives. The well-being of parents was seen as crucial, because this affected their abilities both to be “good” parents and effective employees. The strengths of the literature on organizational psychology thus lay within its investigation of relationships among family, paid work, and parental well-being, which, as Pleck 1977 and Keith and Schafter 1980 note, has reflected the pace of social change as experienced by mothers and fathers in the 1980s and 1990s. Greenhaus and Beutell 1985 is a highly influential study that highlights dual-earner-parent (and by implication middle-class) couples as a focus for research within organizational psychology. In this article, Greenhaus and Beutell developed a framework that has helped to articulate and define the role played by the conflicts and pressures experienced by couples, in which both mothers and fathers combine parenting with employment. The framework in Greenhaus and Beutell 1985 includes three factors, as follows: time-based conflict, in which parents lack the time to cope with the demands of children and employment; strain-based conflict, in which parents are too exhausted to perform well either as caregivers or as workers; and behavior-based conflict, in which parents are required to adopt conflicting behavioral styles in home and work settings—as good parents requiring sensitivity and as good employees requiring toughness and decisiveness. Because Greenhaus and Beutell set out their framework in a clear and accessible manner, their article has been credited with setting the context for future studies of parenting and work–life balance within organizational psychology into the early 21st century, as Gareis, et al. 2009 explains. Thus, for example, the studies in Parasuraman, et al. 1989; Greenhaus, et al. 1989; Frone, et al. 1997; and Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran 2005 all have centered upon understanding how the combination of parenting and paid work induces role conflict among employed parents and how such conflicts may cause parents to experience stress and related health problems.

  • Frone, M. R., J. K. Yardley, and K. S. Markel. “Developing and Testing an Integrative Model of the Work–Family Interface.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 50.2 (1997): 145–167.

    DOI: 10.1006/jvbe.1996.1577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article extends previous studies, such as Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, through a model that examines intent as well as behaviors. The authors show how relationships between work and family are reciprocal. That is, if the requirements of one role (either work or family) regularly interfere with the obligations of a second role (either work or family), the level of “in-role performance” falls.

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  • Gareis, Karen, Rosalind C. Barnett, Karen Ertel, and Lisa F. Berkman. “Work–Family Enrichment and Conflict: Additive Effects, Buffering or Balance?” Journal of Marriage and Family 71.3 (2009): 696–707.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00627.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Writing about work–family conflict, the authors demonstrate how, twenty-five years after publication of Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, the “original focus on [work–family] conflict still characterizes the work–family literature within the field of organizational psychology” (p. 696). Available online by subscription.

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  • Greenhaus, Jeffrey, and Nicholas Beutell. “Sources of Conflict between Work and Family Roles.” Academy of Management Review 10 (1985): 76–88.

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    This seminal and much-cited paper explored the tensions experienced by employed parents who were bringing up dependent children. Because the framework set out in the article was so clear and accessible, their work has been credited with setting the context for future studies of parenting and work–life balance within organizational psychology during the rest of the 20th century and into the 21st century.

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  • Greenhaus, Jeffrey H., Saroj Parasuraman, Cherlyn S. Granrose, Samuel Rabinowitz, and Nicholas J. Beutell. “Sources of Work–Family Conflict among Two-Career Couples.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 34.2 (1989): 133–153.

    DOI: 10.1016/0001-8791(89)90010-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study explores work-family pressures among two-career couples. Drawing upon Greenhaus and Beutell 1985, the authors examine 119 men and 119 women in dual-career relationships. Focusing on time- and strain-based conflict, the authors show how work pressures affect family life. They suggest that role ambiguity is more likely to cause stress among men than among women. Men feel stress if their wives/partners appear to prioritize career over family.

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  • Keith, Pat M., and Robert B. Schafter. “Role Strain and Depression in Two-Job Families.” Family Relations 29.4 (1980): 483–488.

    DOI: 10.2307/584462Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In a manner similar to Pleck 1977, Keith and Schafter considered the degree to which dual-career parents experienced stress and depression when trying to manage effectively both parenting and paid work.

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  • Mesmer-Magnus, Jessica R., and Chockalingam Viswesvaran. “Convergence between Measures of Work-to-Family and Family-to-Work Conflict: A Meta-Analytic Examination.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 67.2 (2005): 215–223.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.05.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article examines the relationships between work-to-family and family-to-work conflict and draws upon Greenhaus and Beutell’s ideas in relation to the role of strains and stresses induced by the conflict of combining parenting and paid work. As with Frone, et al. 1997, the authors show the relationships between work and family to be closely interrelated and to be problematic to measure.

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  • Parasuraman, Saroj, Jeffrey H. Greenhaus, Samuel Rabinowitz, Arthur G. Bedeian, and Kevin W. Mossholder. “Work and Family Variables as Mediators of the Relationship between Wives’ Employment and Husbands’ Well-Being.” Academy of Management Journal 32.1 (1989): 185–201.

    DOI: 10.2307/256426Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study shows how husbands in dual-career marriages reported feeling more stressed than husbands married to women who were at home full time. Husbands with employed wives were generally less satisfied with their jobs, marriage, and quality of life overall than those who were married to housewives. However, paternal satisfaction with childcare arrangements mediated paternal dissatisfaction with life to some extent. Available online by subscription.

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  • Pleck, Joseph H. “The Work–Family Role System.” Social Problems 24.4 (1977): 417–427.

    DOI: 10.1525/sp.1977.24.4.03a00040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pleck explains how psychologies of parenting and paid work significantly advanced research on well-being among parents, because such research examined the capacity of employed parents to manage work–life balance across work and family settings, as opposed to dealing with work and family as separate entities.

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Journals

While journals within specific disciplines related to parenting are available, such as Community, Work & Family and the Journal of Marriage and Family, key literature on parenting may also be found within a wide spread of journals (both generalist and niche) within sociology, psychology, health and management studies, law, and gender studies.

Parenting, Stress, and Flexible Working

As understandings of the relationships among parenting, paid work, and stress developed, scholars began to consider how levels of stress and role strain might differ for mothers and fathers. For example, Davidson and Cooper 1992, Fielden and Cooper 2002, and Desmarais and Alksnis 2005 consider the impact on women managers of combining motherhood with parenting. At the same time as they consider how mothers and fathers experience stress caused by the pressures of combining parenting with paid work, scholars writing within the fields of organizational psychology and social policy highlight the need for family-friendly work–life balance initiatives within organizational settings (see, for example, Thompson, et al. 1999; Estes 2004; Hill, et al. 2001). The authors argue that the opportunity to work flexible hours reduces stress for parents who are employed, thus benefiting not only children’s home life but also work organizations, since absences due to sickness are reduced and productivity is increased. Increasingly, research acknowledges that many policies aimed at enhancing work–life balance among parents who are employed are based upon the assumption that only mothers need, or desire, to access such policies. As Higgins and Duxbury 1992 pointed out in the early 1990s, such beliefs are outdated and unhelpful both to mothers and that fathers, since such gendered assumptions perpetuate the notion that parenting is the responsibility of mothers and fathers are necessarily the main breadwinners. (Although women still carry the major burden of housework, as noted in Bianchi, et al. 2000.) More recently, Tracy and Rivera 2010 argues that organizational policies may appear effective on paper, but they may fail to work in practice because senior managers (especially male) continue to believe that child rearing is the responsibility of mothers.

  • Bianchi, Suzanne, Melissa Milkie, Liana Sayer, and John Robinson. “Is Anyone Doing the Housework?: Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor.” Social Forces 79.1 (2000): 191–228.

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    In this article, time diaries show how married mothers spend less time doing housework than in the past, but the amount of housework is still high for women with children under the age of twelve. Wives mothering children under twelve do three times more housework than their husbands. Mothers with boys aged between twelve and eighteen do more housework than mothers with girls. Available online by subscription.

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  • Davidson, Marilyn J., and Cary L. Cooper. Shattering the Glass Ceiling: The Woman Manager. London: Paul Chapman, 1992.

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    This book investigates how women combine management and family. It examines the impact on women of social expectations that they “should” be in heterosexual relationships with children. It concludes that mothers in management roles are under pressure because they are imagined to be less effective than stay-at-home mothers, while at work, colleagues assume that working mothers are less committed to their paid work than men and women who are not mothers.

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  • Desmarais, Serge, and Christine Alksnis. “Gender Issues.” In Handbook of Work Stress. Edited by Julian Barling, E. Kevin Kelloway, and Michael Frone, 445–487. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2005.

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    This book chapter summarizes literature on motherhood, paid work, and stress. It goes beyond the realm of parental health and considers how maternal stress is exacerbated by social expectations that mothers should put children and home situations above work. The writers sympathize with employed mothers who may be accused of violating social expectations about “good” mothering due to their employment.

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  • Estes, Sarah Beth. “How Are Family-Responsive Workplace Arrangements Family Friendly?: Employer Accommodations, Parenting and Children’s Socioemotional Well-Being.” The Sociological Quarterly 45.4 (2004): 637–661.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2004.tb02308.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This quantitative survey of 210 mothers shows how, when several work–family accommodations are taken into account, supervisor support is very important to maternal well-being. When line managers are supportive, mothers fare better psychologically and practice more-positive parenting, and this positively affects children’s socioemotional well-being. Available online by subscription.

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  • Fielden, S., and Cary L. Cooper. “Managerial Stress: Are Women More at Risk?” In Gender, Work Stress and Health. Edited by Debra L. Nelson and Ronald J. Burke, 19–34. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1037/10467-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book chapter considers how women managers may be more at risk than men, due to expectations that they are responsible for parenting and the domestic care agenda.

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  • Higgins, Christopher A., and Linda E. Duxbury. “Work–Family Conflict: A Comparison of Dual-Career and Traditional-Career Men.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 13.4 (1992): 389–411.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.4030130407Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article within a highly ranked scholarly journal looks at how fathers’ well-being is affected by maternal employment. The writers suggest that fathers married to employed women experience more stress and work–family conflict than fathers with stay-at-home wives. They suggest that paternal stress is caused by lack of structural flexibility at work and a lack of social support for fathers as parents. Available online by subscription.

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  • Hill, E. Jeffrey, Alan J. Hawkins, Maria Ferris, and Michael Weitzman. “Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance.” Family Relations 50.1 (2001): 49–58.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3729.2001.00049.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Data in this well-cited article are drawn from a 1996 International Business Machines (IBM) survey of 6,451 employees on parenting and work–family issues. Perceived job flexibility appears beneficial both to dual-career parents and to their employers. Employed parents who perceive themselves to have flexibility in their jobs have a better work–family balance and are more productive than those without flexible working options. Available online by subscription.

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  • Thompson, Cynthia A., Laura Beauvais, and Karen S. Lyness. “When Work–Family Benefits Are Not Enough: The Influence of Work–Family Culture on Benefit Utilization, Organizational Attachment, and Work–Family Conflict.” Journal of Vocational Behavior 54.3 (1999): 392–415.

    DOI: 10.1006/jvbe.1998.1681Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of 276 managers shows how perceptions of a supportive work–family culture relate to employees’ use of work–family benefits. The availability of work–family benefits and a supportive work–family culture are positively related to affective commitment. However, in cases in which employed parents perceive a lack of support, work–family conflict increases and parents convey their intentions to leave their organization. Available online by subscription.

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  • Tracy, Sarah J., and Kendra D. Rivera. “Endorsing Equity and Applauding Stay-at-Home Moms: How Male Voices on Work-Life Reveal Aversive Sexism and Flickers of Transformation.” Management Communication Quarterly 24.1 (2010): 3–43.

    DOI: 10.1177/0893318909352248Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Qualitative interviews demonstrate how very senior male managers continue to believe that mothers in heterosexual partnerships should be the lead parents, while fathers should prioritize breadwinning. As a result, they assume that fathers neither need nor wish to access flexible working policies. Available online by subscription.

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Broadening Understandings of Parenting and Work

Since 2000, research on parents within the fields of social policy and organizational psychology has been criticized for being somewhat narrow in its approach. In particular, it has been critiqued for its tendency to deal primarily with dual-earner parents, who are, by implication, white-collar workers and parenting within a marriage or cohabitant relationship. Özbilgin, et al. 2010 and Lewis, et al. 2007 note, in particular, how the literature on work–life balance tends to center on middle-class parents and is limited to an Anglo-American focus. Burnett, et al. 2010 and Lewis and Cooper 2005 identify the need for a greater focus on fathers.

  • Burnett, Simon B., Caroline J. Gatrell, Cary L. Cooper, and P. R. Sparrow. “Well-Balanced Families?: A Gendered Analysis of Work–Life Balance Policies and Work–Family Practices.” International Journal of Gender in Management 25.7 (2010): 534–549.

    DOI: 10.1108/17542411011081356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This analysis of policies on work–life balance and work–family practices argues that, although in the 21st century work–life policies have been reframed to include fathers, men are often discouraged by employers from utilizing these policies. This presumption that it is the mothers within dual-earner households who are always the lead caregivers for their children perpetuates outdated assumptions about parenting by employers, namely, that heterosexual couples continue to allocate domestic-care responsibilities along traditional gendered lines. Available online by subscription.

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  • Lewis, Suzan, and Cary Cooper. Work–Life Integration: Case Studies of Organisational Change. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2005.

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    This book considers how few parents can rely on the presence of a full-time homemaker to care for children. The authors note that employed fathers are increasingly keen to invest time in parenting children. The writers observe that many children are now raised by single parents, and they call for more-creative and flexible policies on work–life balance to accommodate the changing needs of parents and children.

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  • Lewis, Suzan, Rhona Gambles, and Richenda Rapoport. “The Constraints of a Work–Life Balance Approach: An International Perspective.” International Journal of Human Resource Management 18.3 (2007): 360–374.

    DOI: 10.1080/09585190601165577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    These authors summarize the literature on how parents combine child rearing, domestic chores, and paid work. They indicate empathy with employed mothers, who are seen to carry the burden of child and household work. They observe how work–life balance has an Anglo-American focus, and they call for a more inclusive and global approach in carrying out research on parents and work/work–life balance.

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  • Özbilgin, Mustafa T., T. Alexandra Beauregard, Ahu Tatli, and Myrtle P. Bell. “Work–Life, Diversity and Intersectionality: A Critical Review and Research Agenda.” International Journal of Management Reviews 13.2 (2010): 177–198.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2370.2010.00291.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article constitutes a synthesis of work–life literature from 1990 onward through the lens of diversity. It shows how problems of parenting among single and/or impoverished mothers and fathers have been omitted from scholarship on parenting and work. The authors observe that what they term “multiple strands of difference,” including the challenges facing black and other ethnic minority and gay and lesbian parents, are underresearched. Available online by subscription.

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Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices

Sociologists who have authored works on parenting and family practices (for example, Smart and Neale 1999 and Morgan 1996) have promoted the idea that families should be regarded as fluid and diverse entities that both indicate, and drive, social change. During the 1950s and 1960s, research on parenting and families was strongly influenced by the work of American sociologist Talcott Parsons. Parsons presented an image of families as stable units that were, by implication, middle class, white, and made up of heterosexual married parents with children, with fathers who went out to work and mothers who stayed at home. Within what Gatrell 2005 has termed the “Parsonian” scenario, family structures and households were understood in terms of heterosexuality and gendered sex roles. “Parsonian” fathers were seen as responsible for economic provision, while mothers were allocated responsibility for raising children and managing the home. This Parsonian ideal of work-oriented fathers and stay-at-home, child-oriented mothers has been much criticized for its lack of attention to parents who were poor, single, and/or ethnic minorities. However, the view was popular among policymakers and manufacturers of consumer goods, and it predominated in popular culture for many decades. Research on families and parent–child relationships continued to develop during the 1970s and 1980s. However, such work held a relatively low status within mainstream sociology, because, as Morgan 1996 observes, such research was seen to be almost exclusively the province of feminist writers who sought to better understand women’s position in society at the same time as campaigning for better and more-equal treatment of mothers in a range of social settings. During the 1990s, two key texts—Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995 and Hochschild 1997—were credited with transforming mainstream academic views of parenting and families as a key catalyst for shifting social behaviors and demographics. In particular, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995 influenced sociological perspectives on parenthood, because it highlighted paternal desires to be engaged parents. The authors put forward the idea that child–parent relationships may be regarded by mothers and fathers as central to personal fulfillment and more enduring than marriage or paid work. Similarly, Hochschild 1997 observes how some mothers are highly committed to their paid work and some fathers seek to be more engaged with children. As both Hochschild 1997 and Crompton and Lyonette 2006 note, social expectations about gendered roles may be constraining both for mothers and fathers. In keeping with the observations in Morgan 1996 that families are fluid and responsive to social change, Carol Smart and Bren Neale undertook important work in beginning to explore how men and women manage parenting after divorce (see Smart and Neale 1999 and Smart, et al. 2001), while Crompton and Lyonette 2006 considers work and family relationships within marriage.

  • Beck, Ulrich, and Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim. The Normal Chaos of Love. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1995.

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    This text is significant for the sociologies of parenting and family practices, because it challenges assumptions that the work and home orientation of mothers and fathers can be defined in relation to traditional gender roles. Beck and Beck-Gernsheim consider not only the pressures of combining parenting and paid work, but they also observe how some parents believe relationships with children to be a priority.

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  • Crompton, Rosemary, and Clare Lyonette. “Work-Life ‘Balance’ in Europe.” Acta Sociologica 49.4 (2006): 379–393.

    DOI: 10.1177/0001699306071680Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article shows how sociological examinations of work–life balance, gender, and power, in relation to social and organizational policy, have advanced understandings regarding how employed heterosexual parents negotiate relationships with employers, children, and one another. Available online by subscription.

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  • Gatrell, Caroline. Hard Labour: The Sociology of Parenthood. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press, 2005.

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    This book examines changes in work and family practices in the 21st century. It provides an overview of the literature on motherhood, fatherhood, and family practices and then draws upon a qualitative study of married/cohabiting employed mothers and fathers. It investigates how fathers and mothers manage relationships with work, children, and each other and how they share childcare and housework.

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  • Hochschild, Arlie R. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

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    Hochschild showed how parents were conflicted about their social roles. In this book she argues that social expectations continue to influence how the responsibilities for parenting and paid work are divided among women and men. However, gender does not suffice, by itself, as an explanation for degrees of parental commitment toward either child rearing or paid work.

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  • Morgan, David. Family Connections: An Introduction to Family Studies. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1996.

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    In this book, Morgan observes that, before the mid-1990s, family sociologies were not regarded as mainstream and, due to their association with feminist scholarship, were treated by mainstream sociologists as politically suspect. Morgan suggests that the term the family brought to mind idealized notions of heterosexual parents with children all living in one household. Thus, he coined the more appropriate term family practices.

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  • Smart, Carol, and Bren Neale. Family Fragments? Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1999.

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    In this book the authors observe a range of paternal attitudes toward parenting, from assumptions that mothers will take full responsibility to paternal insistence on the sharing of childcare. The authors note that mothers are often disadvantaged by divorce, and that children are often uncomfortably placed in the middle of parental disagreements.

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  • Smart, Carol, Bren Neale, and Amanda Wade. The Changing Experience of Childhood: Families and Divorce. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2001.

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    This text considers postdivorce parenting and observes that the advantages to mothers of sharing childcare with fathers are often offset by the limits that fathers themselves place upon paternal responsibility, particularly with regard to finance and child-related domestic labor.

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Mothering

Morgan 1996 (cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices) notes that sociologies of motherhood were central to feminist research during the 1970s and 1980s, when campaigning feminists raised awareness of the issues of childbearing, child rearing, and mothers’ work (both paid and unpaid). During the 1970s, American feminist writers such as Shulamith Firestone and Adrienne Rich (see Firestone 1970 and Rich 1977 under Feminist Sociologies) considered how motherhood influenced the position of women in society. The extent to which the infant-maternal bond was biological and unavoidable and how far mothering was a socially constructed, institutionalized role became (and remains) an issue of contention. Adrienne Rich railed against the idea of women as natural mothers but acknowledged the importance, for many women, of mothering their own children. She used the metaphor of an “invisible strand” (Rich 1977, p. 36) to describe the strong bond that exists between many mothers and their children. Rich challenged “Unexamined assumptions: that a ‘natural’ mother is a person without further identity, one who can find her chief gratification in being all day with small children [and] that maternal love is, and should be, quite literally selfless” (Rich 1977, p. 42). Feminist writers argued that what was termed the “institution of motherhood” in Rich 1977 was socially constructed and designed to keep women in the home. They argued for the desire, and the entitlement, of mothers to have a working life outside of the home. Although these arguments are well rehearsed, not everyone accepts the idea that motherhood should not be seen as a “natural” priority for most women. Even to date, some sociologists, such as UK social economist Catherine Hakim, dispute such accounts. Hakim continues to argue that most women are oriented toward children and the home, with mothers prioritizing their domestic role over jobs and careers. She regards men and women who are not mothers as notably more committed to paid work than are mothers. Thus, from the 1970s until the present, themes from literatures on the sociology of motherhood continue to debate how far mothering comes naturally to women and how far the bearing of children should relate to responsibility for childcare. Literature on motherhood across three decades (1980s–2010s) explores how far the “institution” of motherhood imposes on women a social role that excludes them from public and workplace roles. Writers on motherhood are concerned with the transition to motherhood and mothers’ sense of self, social expectations regarding “good” mothers and “natural” mothers, and the impact that motherhood has on women’s health.

Feminist Sociologies

Motherhood and mothering became a central theme within feminist sociologies beginning in the 1970s. At this time, writers such as Shulamith Firestone and Lucia Valeska (see Firestone 1970 and Valeska 1984) looked toward a future in which childbearing would not fall to women because it would become a technological process, meaning that babies would grow outside the uterus and women would not give birth. Firestone 1970 asserted that children should not be regarded as biological extensions of the maternal body. The author suggested that mothers should be enabled to pursue careers, while mothering should be undertaken within nationally regulated households, where childcare would be shared among groups of adults (not necessarily biological parents) who wished for community-style living and who would take responsibility for a period of time. The implication of the work of these two writers is that if mothers could share responsibility for reproduction and the nurturing of children with a wider society, women would then share the same biological status as men, and gender equality could be achieved. The idea that women’s equality should be achieved through effective denial of maternity was contested by feminist writers such as Mary O’Brien (a midwife by background) and Adrienne Rich (see O’Brien 1981 and Rich 1977). These writers regarded mothering as an important part of womanhood. They campaigned for a social situation in which women could bear and bring up their own children while maintaining a social identity other than that of “mother.” During the 1980s, UK academics such as Ann Oakley carried out research into the everyday lives of women (Oakley 1981). Oakley reframed mothering, and care of children and the home, as a form of hidden work that women were expected to undertake as a matter of course and for little reward.

  • Firestone, Shulamith. The Dialectic of Sex. New York: William Morrow, 1970.

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    Many years before new reproductive technologies began to shift perceptions of conception and fetal development, this book argued for “the freeing of women from the tyranny of their biology by any means available, and the diffusion of the childbearing and child-rearing role to society as a whole” (p. 270).

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  • Oakley, Ann. From Here to Maternity: Becoming a Mother. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1981.

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    Oakley’s book outlines her qualitative research on the transition to motherhood among a group of mainly middle-class women. She considers the feelings of women who, while they may have loved their children dearly, found the experience of mothering a baby, while feeling trapped at home, deeply frustrating. Oakley’s influential thesis argues for women’s right to have both children and a career.

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  • O‘Brien, Mary. The Politics of Reproduction. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.

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    Mary O’Brien similarly supported a “refocusing of the central female experience, the experience of motherhood” and argued that a successful feminist agenda could not emerge from assumptions that mothering their own children was not important to many women (p. 91). O’Brien dismisses Firestone’s vision as inappropriate and unhelpful for many women.

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  • Rich, Adrienne. Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. London: Virago, 1977.

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    In this highly cited and very influential text, Rich introduced the “institution of motherhood” as a social (rather than a biological) construction developed within a patriarchal society. She sees the “institution of motherhood” as constraining women’s right to a social identity beyond mothering and lobbies for the right of mothers both to raise children and to pursue identities of the self through a career.

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  • Valeska, Lucia. “If All Else Fails I’m Still a Mother.” In Mothering: Essays in Feminist Theory. Edited by Joyce Trebilcot, 70–80. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld, 1984.

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    In this chapter Valeska shares a view similar to that of Firestone. She suggests that “Under other economic systems, children materially contribute to a family’s wealth and well-being, and eventually the young take care of the old. Not so today . . . they are a pain in the ass and cost a lot of money” (p. 77). Valeska argues that the mothering of children should be a wider social responsibility to be shared among local communities.

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The Medicalization of Childbirth

Feminist writers such as Ann Oakley and Adrienne Rich (see Oakley 1986, and Rich 1977, cited in Feminist Sociologies), in exploring the transition to motherhood, were concerned not only with the social role and entitlements of mothers during children’s infant years. They also viewed the post-1970 medical management of childbirth as symbolic of living in a society that they regarded as inherently patriarchal. Oakley 1986 does accept that medicalization of childbirth is partly associated with the medicalization of life in general. Furthermore, the author acknowledges how decreasing infant mortality rates can be correlated with improved medical care. She argues, however, that improved birth outcomes could also be related to enhanced living conditions among mothers in poorer sectors of society (e.g., better sanitation). From the 1980s to date, the question of who is in control during pregnancy and at the moment of birth—the medical profession or the mother—continues to be a subject for debate between medics and scholars. Arguments focus on the tensions between the notion of mothers’ “natural” ability to give birth and the idea that technological interventions are necessary, while considering at the same time the medical control of birth as representing women’s oppression by society at large. Interestingly, although childbirth is seen to be more woman centered now than during the 1980s, hospital births remain by far the most common in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and the United States, and medical protocols tend to be the guiding principles for care of pregnant and birthing mothers. Since the 1980s, Sheila Kitzinger has argued for less emphasis on birth technologies and more on women’s individual needs during childbirth (see Pollock 1999, Kitzinger 1992, Kitzinger 2003, and Kitzinger 2006). She criticizes the medical establishment for taking control of the process of mothering during pregnancy and birth, often at the expense of maternal needs. Kitzinger affirms that mothers are under continual pressure to conform to medical guidance and are accused of “irresponsibility” if they resist such guidance. Kitzinger’s first book was published in the early 1990s, yet, in relation to notions of maternal “choice,” she suggests that little has changed, and the arguments put forward about mothering in her early work differ very little from the discussions in her work published in the first decade of the 21st century.

  • Kitzinger, Sheila. “Birth and Violence against Women: Generating Hypotheses from Women’s Accounts of Unhappiness after Childbirth.” In Women’s Health Matters. Edited by Helen Roberts, 63–80. London: Routledge, 1992.

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    In this chapter, Kitzinger argues that male obstetricians use the concept of risk to retain control of mothering and childbirth. In this view, expectant and birthing mothers who contest medical advice are told to accept hospital protocols and obstetric decisions for the sake of babies’ health.

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  • Kitzinger, Sheila. The New Pregnancy and Childbirth: Choices and Challenges. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2003.

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    This book describes in detail the bodily and psychological process of pregnancy and birth and the transition to motherhood.

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  • Kitzinger, Sheila. Birth Crisis. London: Routledge, 2006.

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    This book makes arguments that are not dissimilar to those asserted in Oakley 1986 (cited below)—specifically that not all births require a hospital setting or technological interventions, and that mothers’ emotional, as well as physical, needs should be more central to the process of pregnancy and birth than they are at present.

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  • Oakley, Ann. The Captured Womb: A History of the Medical Care of Pregnant Women. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

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    In this book, expectant mothers are shown to be depersonalized because the medical system treats women’s bodies as containers for developing fetuses, and new technologies take precedence over noninterventionist pregnancy and birth. Ann Oakley observes how pregnancy and birth have become highly medicalized, with obstetricians (often male) taking the lead in decision making about the care of pregnant and birthing women.

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  • Pollock, Della. Telling Bodies: Performing Birth. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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    Pollock’s understanding of the continuing drive to technologize childbirth includes, but also extends beyond, the idea of patriarchy. Birth technologies within a contemporary context are seen by Pollock as classed, and driven both by fathers and mothers. Pollock suggests that the medicalization of birth stems from a wider confidence on the part of many parents in the advantages of scientific progress in relation to health.

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The Othering of Mothers

Scholars writing on motherhood and health from a sociocultural, and often feminist, perspective argue that women’s capacity for reproduction disadvantages them from a range of perspectives that extend beyond the birthing room. Within medical contexts, women’s bodies (and especially mothers’ bodies) are often seen as unreliable and prone to breakdown and failure. By comparison, men’s bodies are often treated within medical discourse as normally healthy. This difference in approach has arisen because a mother’s body—or what sociocultural theorists have termed “the maternal body”—is often seen primarily through the lens of reproduction. According to medical sociologists such as Ellen Annandale and Judith Clark (Annandale and Clark 1996), this is because the influence of the biomedical model of the body, and the notion of male bodies as “normal,” extends beyond the field of medicine, pervading all aspects of social life. Mothers’ reproductive capacity is linked socially both with their ability to perform and with their social and economic status in the workplace (see also Mullin 2005). Mothering and reproduction are seen to reduce women’s social and economic value, especially with regard to employment and career. The idea that motherhood devalues women in social and economic contexts has been explored in a number of scholars’ works over many years, including Asher 2011, Young 2005, Gatrell 2011, and Martin 1989. Linked to the idea that the maternal body is treated as less valuable than the male body, sociological and sociocultural writings on mothers show how mothering is seen by mothers themselves to be the cause of women’s devaluation in society. Rachel Cusk observes how her social worth appeared to plummet once she became a mother (see Cusk 2001). Ideas that mothers’ bodies are frail and unreliable carry forward to include the bodies of dependent children, who are seen to be often ill and who are assumed (at least by employers) to be mothers’ (as opposed to fathers’) responsibility. Extending the argument that mothers are valued less by employers than male workers or women workers who are not mothers, social economist Catherine Hakim (Hakim 2000) challenges feminist arguments regarding maternal desires to engage in paid work. Hakim suggests that most mothers are unlikely to be work oriented; rather, they are either home oriented or adapt their jobs around domestic responsibilities. Hakim represents mothers as employees who are less motivated and less flexible than their male or childless counterparts.

  • Annandale, Ellen, and Judith Clark. “What Is Gender? Feminist Theory and the Sociology of Human Reproduction.” Sociology of Health and Illness 18.1 (1996): 17–44.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-9566.ep10934409Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Annandale and Clark develop the theoretical concept of “binary opposition” to articulate social relationships between women’s and men’s health, based on women’s capacity for pregnancy and birth. Binary opposition to treat women’s and men’s health is at two opposite ends of a scale, in which women’s (and especially mothers’) health status is often constructed as “poor” against an implicit assumption that men’s health is “good.” Available online by subscription.

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  • Asher, Rebecca. Shattered: Modern Motherhood and the Illusion of Equality. London: Harvill Secker, 2011.

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    This book considers how motherhood compromises women’s career prospects and affirms that mothers still experience inequalities at work (to the detriment of fathers as well as mothers). Useful comparisons between Britain and other European, including Scandinavian, settings.

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  • Cusk, Rachel. A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother. London: Fourth Estate, 2001.

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    In this book, Cusk observes how the process of mothering is itself highly valued by most women, but argues that motherhood poses a significant challenge to the concept of sexual equality—women’s value in wider social settings is seen to “plummet” once they have children. Cusk (p. 57) describes the negative impact of motherhood on her social identity as causing a drop in self-esteem, and she links this with the depression experienced by some mothers.

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  • Gatrell, Caroline. “‘I’m a Bad Mum’: Pregnant Presenteeism and Poor Health at Work.” Social Science & Medicine 72.4 (2011): 478–485.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.11.020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this recent paper, Gatrell builds on the thesis in Annandale and Clark 1996 to suggest that binary opposition retains a powerful social influence on mothers’ lives. This is because it spills over into everyday cultures and practices, especially at work. Binary opposition reaches beyond medical research to exert an influence on employers’ perceptions of mothers and mothers-to-be as sickly, less reliable, and less competent than men. Available online by subscription.

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  • Hakim, Catherine. Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century: Preference Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    In this book, Hakim contends that only 20 percent of women are work oriented, with 60 percent adaptive (they prioritize mothering and choose employment that can fit around mothering duties) and 20 percent home oriented. Hakim presents these arguments as a “choice” made by most women. She views most women as having a greater affinity with the identity of mother than with that of career woman.

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  • Martin, Emily. The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. Boston: Beacon, 1989.

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    Martin’s book shows how medical definitions present mothers’ bodies as fragile, unreliable, and prone to break down. Martin notes how biomedical research findings may be used as “evidence” in order to maintain the high social and economic value of male workers. She asserts that biomedical explanations about the frailty of mothers’ bodies are used to justify social inequities, such as the small percentage of employed mothers at senior levels.

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  • Mullin, Amy. Reconceiving Pregnancy and Childcare: Ethic, Experience and Reproductive Labour. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Mullin notes how all mothers’ bodies are seen to be “other” (especially during pregnancy). The maternal body may be regarded as impaired and socially inconvenient, especially if mothers require “special” facilities or arrangements in relation to mothering their children.

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  • Nettleton, Sarah. The Sociology of Health and Illness. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2006.

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    This book covers a range of issues in relation to sociologies of health. However, regarding motherhood, the author argues that, historically, medicine has constructed healthy masculine bodies as the ideal and the maternal body as an inferior and unreliable version of the male body, due to women’s capacity for motherhood.

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  • Young, Iris M. On Female Body Experience: “Throwing Like a Girl” and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Young observes how pregnancy is often absent within scholarly and philosophical discussions about the body. She criticizes descriptions of mind–body dualism as male oriented, due to assumptions that human beings each comprise only one body and mind—when in practice the pregnant body is developing at least one additional body and mind within itself. Young further critiques the objectification of the pregnant body within both medical theory and practice.

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Social Expectations

Mothers are often expected to perform the work of birth, and subsequently the mothering of their children, to the most exacting of standards in the context of oppressive narratives about “good” mothering (as noted in Miller 2005). Gatrell 2005 (cited in Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices) notes that women are overwhelmed with advice on how to mother from a range of sources, including the Internet. Marshall 1991, Longhurst 2001, Ribbens 1994, and Miller 2005 observe that mothers are seen to be measured by their ability to perform good mothering from the outset, during pregnancy, and from the moment of birth. Miller 2005 notes that some women find the social expectations relating to “good” mothering to be a source of oppression.

  • Longhurst, Robyn. Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries. London: Routledge, 2001.

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    In this book it is shown how pregnant women are under continual surveillance by others. The behavior of the pregnant woman is critically observed not only by health practitioners but also by family members and others, including employers, colleagues, and acquaintances. People frequently regard themselves as owning a collective interest in supervising the mothering of pregnant women, regardless of whether such interest is invited by pregnant women themselves.

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  • Marshall, H. “The Social Construction of Motherhood: An Analysis of Childcare and Parenting Manuals.” In Motherhood: Meanings, Practices and Ideologies. Edited by Ann Phoenix, Anne Woollett, and Eva Lloyd, 66–85. London: SAGE, 1991.

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    In this chapter, Marshall argues that, in order to be “good” mothers, women are expected to prioritize mothering before their own intellectual and sexual identities. The failure of children to fulfill their potential in life is viewed as a result of women’s poor mothering skills. Wider social ills can thus be blamed on individual mothers.

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  • Miller, Tina. Making Sense of Motherhood: A Narrative Approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511489501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Social narratives of “natural” mothering are shown in this book to imply that supposedly “good” mothers are biologically endowed with nurturing qualities (as opposed to learning mothering skills through repetition and practice). By implication, women who find themselves unable to meet these unrealistic social expectations are seen to be failing as mothers, which may place them under unfair pressure.

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  • Ribbens, Jane C. Mothers and Their Children: A Feminist Sociology of Childrearing. London: SAGE, 1994.

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    In her book on how mothers raise their children, Ribbens found that expert theories on how to mother may be oppressive to mothers. The author observes that mothers are often expected to prioritize the social and emotional needs of children (and husbands / male partners) above their own.

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Conflicting Expectations

During babyhood and infanthood, “good” mothers are under pressure from health agencies to breastfeed. However, social beliefs regarding what constitutes acceptable public behaviors mean that it can be difficult for mothers to breastfeed in public settings, because such behavior may be seen as inappropriate. In common with other aspects of mothering, breastfeeding is often presented to mothers as an innate skill associated with good mothering, which they should achieve “naturally.” Bailey and Pain 2001 relates the pain and difficulties experienced by many women attempting to breastfeed. Dykes 2005 notes how mothers are anxious about producing sufficient milk to nourish their babies, and Earle 2002 reports the feelings of guilt and anguish experienced by mothers of young babies, who feel a sense of failure if they switch from breastfeeding to infant formula.

  • Bailey, Cathy, and Rachel Pain. “Geographies of Infant Feeding and Access to Primary Health-Care.” Health and Social Care in the Community 9.5 (2001): 309–317.

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2524.2001.00308.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article describes the social aversion, in the United Kingdom and the United States, toward breastfeeding mothers, who are expected to nurse babies as a private, hidden act, rather than as a public activity. It also underlines the pain and discomfort experienced by women attempting to breastfeed. Available online by subscription.

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  • Dykes, Fiona. “‘Supply’ and ‘Demand’: Breastfeeding as Labour.” Social Science & Medicine 60.10 (2005): 2283–2294.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.10.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dykes attributes low breastfeeding duration rates to mothers’ lack of confidence in their ability to produce enough milk. She argues that the embodied experience of breastfeeding, and the unpredictability of babies’ and mothers’ bodies, does not accord with women’s experience of industrial production and explains the lack of confidence by mothers in their ability to nourish their infants.

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  • Earle, Sarah. “Factors Affecting the Initiation of Breastfeeding: Implications for Breastfeeding Promotion.” Health Promotion International 17.3 (2002): 205–214.

    DOI: 10.1093/heapro/17.3.205Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author suggests that some mothers move to formula so that fathers can assist in the “daily grind” of early motherhood, and some women cease to breastfeed in order to reclaim a separate embodied identity. Many women who cease breastfeeding feel guilt and failure in the context of social expectations that breastfeeding is a supposedly natural component of “good” mothering. Available online by subscription.

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Mothering in Challenging Circumstances

Early texts on mothering (i.e., those written during the 1970s and 1980s) have been criticized as focusing on the situation of middle-class women with male partners. More-recent texts cover a broader range of topics, including mothering among disenfranchised women (Tyler 2006), single and/or impoverished women (Murphy 2003), black women (Collins 1997), and teenage women (Arai 2009). Thomson, et al. 2011 and Edwards, et al. 2010 show many mothers to be determined and efficient caregivers, often in challenging circumstances. Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2003 treats the situation of low-paid women, often of black and minority ethnic status, who are obliged to spend time away from their own children while caring for children in more-affluent families.

  • Arai, Lisa. Teenage Pregnancy: The Making and Unmaking of a Problem. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2009.

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    This book on teenage pregnancy examines the consequences, for individual women, of teenage motherhood. The author asserts that negative media and other images of young mothers perpetuate the marginalization of teenage mothers, and she advocates more-positive social support for this group.

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  • Collins, Patricia Hill. “The Meaning of Motherhood in Black Culture and Black Mother/Daughter Relationships.” In Towards a New Psychology of Gender. Edited by Mary Gergen and Sarah Davies, 325–340. New York: Routledge, 1997.

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    This chapter seeks to understand the meaning of motherhood in African American cultures, and to analyze the integration of a range of perspectives that has produced an identifiable Afrocentric ideology of motherhood and what characteristics define this ideology. The author notes that white perspectives on motherhood (such as the narratives of “good” mothering) are more oppressive for black mothers than for white mothers.

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  • Edwards, Rosalind, Simon Duncan, and C. Alexander. Teenage Parenthood: What’s the Problem? London: Tufnell, 2010.

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    This collection of papers considers the position of teenage parents within contemporary society. It focuses on positive aspects of teenage pregnancy and challenges negative stereotypes of teenage parents as irresponsible, impoverished, and poorly educated.

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  • Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Arlie R. Hochschild. Global Women: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy. London: Granta, 2003.

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    Ethnic-minority women such as those studied in this volume may be separated from their own children while caring for the infants of more-affluent families in locations far away from their own homes.

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  • Murphy, Emily. “Expertise and Forms of Knowledge in the Government of Families.” The Sociological Review 51.4 (2003): 433–462.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.2003.00430.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author writes about how working-class women are pressured by health staff to breastfeed. Breastfeeding may not be in keeping with their wishes or their lifestyles, and these women devise diplomatic but effective strategies for moving to formula milk.

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  • Thomson, Rachel, Mary-Jane Kehily, Lucy Hadfield, and Sue Sharpe. Making Modern Mothers. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2011.

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    This book draws upon interviews with new mothers and grandmothers from a range of social backgrounds. In so doing, the authors consider the transition to motherhood across the years and among different generations. The authors investigate older motherhood and teenage motherhood and explore how women are changed by becoming mothers.

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  • Tyler, Imogen. “Welcome to Britain: The Cultural Politics of Asylum.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 9.2 (2006): 185–202.

    DOI: 10.1177/1367549406063163Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this journal article, Tyler articulates how mothers in asylum are hidden from the public sphere in detention centers, living in cramped and unsocial conditions. Pregnant and newly maternal asylum seekers are unrecognized and unprotected by Western legal systems, to the point that they are treated as social outcasts. Such mothers are made to feel completely worthless, both as mothers and as human beings. Available online by subscription.

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Fathering

From the 1980s onward, research on fatherhood has flourished. This research tends to center on the tensions between the traditional economic role of fathers as the main breadwinner and growing expectations within society that fathers should be more engaged in raising children than in the past. Much of the scholarship around fatherhood assumes that men will be combining paid work with raising dependent children. Many writers on fatherhood acknowledge the enduring influence of what Gatrell 2005 (cited under Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices) terms the Parsonian image of fathers as economic providers. This image influences the social construction of paternal roles, with heterosexual fathers assumed to prioritize paid work outside the home while mothers are presumed to be in the background, caring for children. Gregory and Milner 2009 explores parenting practices that aid in work–life balance. Miller 2010, Dermott 2008, Lupton and Barclay 1997, and Halford 2006 observe that fathers who attempt to shift the focus of the paternal role from financial provision to lead, or equal, child caregiver find themselves constrained by social expectations. (However, as Brandth and Kvande 2001 notes, this may differ in Scandinavian countries, where governments place an emphasis on gender equity.) Collier 2001 ascribes the increased research interest in fatherhood to a desire, among scholars of masculinity, to explore men’s familial roles within families, in a manner similar to the feminist studies on motherhood discussed earlier. This is certainly true of Lewis 1986, in which the author compares his research with that found in Oakley 1986 (see The Medicalization of Childbirth) and notes a concern to understand how fathers interact with children and family on an everyday basis. However, Beck and Beck-Gernsheim 1995 (see Sociologies of Parenting and Family Practices) relates that increased scholarly interest in fathering stems from changes in social and economic circumstances among heterosexual couples (e.g., the increased likelihood that mothers will work outside the home). Featherstone 2009 adds to these views the argument that fathers are increasingly the focus of research due to changes in social policy, with an increased desire by governments to ensure the continued involvement by fathers with children after divorce.

  • Brandth, Berit, and Elin Kvande. “Flexible Work and Flexible Fathers.” Work, Employment & Society 15.2 (2001): 251–267.

    DOI: 10.1177/09500170122118940Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In a study on paternity leave upon the arrival of newborns, these authors observe how Norwegian welfare regimes seek to share workplace benefits between couples so as to actively promote gender equality. Available online by subscription.

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  • Collier, Richard. “A Hard Time to Be a Father? Reassessing the Relationship between Laws, Policy, and Family (Practices).” Journal of Law and Society 28.4 (2001): 520–545.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-6478.00201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collier examines how fatherhood is constructed within British law, and explores relationships between legal and social constructions of fathering. He examines links between legal expectations that employed fathers should make financial provision for children when adult relationships break down and related assumptions that divorced men may have “rights” to continued paternal child relationships. Available online by subscription.

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  • Dermott, Esther. Intimate Fatherhood: A Sociological Analysis. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2008.

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    This book explores father–child relationships from the perspective of intimacy. Dermott observes that fathers may be constrained by social expectations that, for example, men should spend long hours working full time. However, she also notes that fathers may still emphasize the importance of the father–child relationship without necessarily becoming involved, in practice, in children’s everyday care.

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  • Featherstone, Brid. Contemporary Fathering: Theory, Policy and Practice. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, 2009.

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    Featherstone examines how perceptions of fathering shape social policy and social work, and how, in turn, policy may reshape social understandings of fathering. Recognizing the constraints felt by men who prioritize fathering roles, Featherstone also emphasizes a need to retain a focus on mothers, because policy may undervalue maternal support to fathering practices and maternal contributions to children’s well-being.

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  • Gregory, Abigail, and Susan Milner. “Work–Life Balance: A Matter of Choice?” Gender, Work & Organization 16.1 (2009): 1–13.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2008.00429.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors consider fatherhood from the perspective of work–life balance and examine relationships between policies of work–life balance and parenting practices. They observe how work–life balance may be gendered and employed fathers may be assumed by employers to prioritize roles as breadwinners. Available online by subscription.

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  • Halford, Susan. “Collapsing the Boundaries?: Fatherhood, Organization and Home-Working.” Gender, Work & Organization 13.4 (2006): 383–402.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0432.2006.00313.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Halford observes that fathers draw upon personal agency to define their approach to fatherhood. Nevertheless, paternal roles are constrained by social expectations about employed fathers. This means that most fathers work full days outside the home. Available online by subscription.

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  • Lewis, Charlie. Becoming a Father. Milton Keynes, UK: Open University Press, 1986.

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    In the course of this work Lewis interviewed one hundred new fathers. His research demonstrates the attachment between father and child but nevertheless acknowledges the continuing existence of “the division made by Parsons and Bales (1956) between the ‘instrumental’ male, who links the family with the outside world and the ‘expressive female,’ who maintains the emotional stability of the family” ( p.125).

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  • Lupton, Deborah, and Lesley Barclay. Constructing Fatherhood: Discourses and Experiences. London: SAGE, 1997.

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    Lupton and Barclay consider the relationship between fathers and the provider role in examining the experiences of Australian new fathers. They observe that, although some men in their research sample aspired to be “involved” fathers, several found this adjustment difficult, especially if it extended to a responsibility for domestic chores. They argue further that some mothers find it difficult to relinquish childcare responsibilities.

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  • Miller, Tina. Making Sense of Fatherhood: Gender, Caring and Work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511778186Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    When anticipating fatherhood, men may intend to be involved with childcare. However, in practice, they often find themselves locked into economic roles due to wider social expectations that they should construct their male social identities through occupational status. Like mothers, men are shocked by the transition to parenthood and find it to be more complex and challenging than they imagined prior to become parents.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/23/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791231-0051

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