Portrayals of Fatherhood and Motherhood in Best-selling Child-rearing Manuals Open Access

Liu, Xiyan (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/st74cq505?locale=en


Mothers’ increasing participation in the labor force and fathers’ involvement in the care-giver role in childcare have been two trends in recent decades that potentially modify and redefine the parenthood in heterosexual families. Past empirical studies show that despite mothers’ increasing economic contribution, they still shoulder more household labors and experience starker work-family conflicts. Studies also show that fathers strive to maintain their hegemonic masculinity in care-giving practices. This study investigates best-selling child-rearing manuals that reflect cultural ideals and expectations of motherhood and fatherhood, and thus reflect the cultural context under which issues of the division of childcare labor, the work-family conflict, and the construction of identity in childcare practices occur. I also include in my samples the newly emerged genre in parenting books – childcare books for fathers exclusively. Findings of this study suggest that mothers still play the primary care-giver role and take over more childcare responsibilities. They also play the role of “gatekeeper” who control fathers’ access to childcare and monitor fathers’ care-giving practices. On the other hand, fathers are secondary care-givers who participate in childcare not only for children but also for helping mothers. They also maintain their dominance in the family and demonstrate their strength in giving mothers support, assertion and acknowledgement. For work-family conflict, parents who follow their traditional gender roles as providers or care-givers are provided with more resources to cope with or mitigate the conflict, while parents who go against their traditional gender roles are expected to face struggles and to take extra steps to reassure their gender identities. The notion of masculinity is ambiguous and contradictory in fathering manuals – in explicit claims and arguments, authors take the stance against the traditional label of hegemonic masculinity and advocate for a new, alternative model of fatherhood, but implicitly, authors present the ideas of hegemonic masculinity as scientific and objective fact, or assumptions for appropriate fathering practices.

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                          1

Methodology                                                                         17

Finding                                                                                   24

Discussion                                                                              51

Reference                                                                                57

Appendix 1                                                                              62

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