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Homo Domesticus: A Gender Perspective on Single Males Rearing Children.

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Presentation on theme: "Homo Domesticus: A Gender Perspective on Single Males Rearing Children."— Presentation transcript:

1 Homo Domesticus: A Gender Perspective on Single Males Rearing Children

2 Why Study Single Dads? Fastest-growing family type in the US (Garasky & Meyer 1993) Generally under-researched family arrangement More and more men are receiving physical custody of their children today Assess the effects of single fatherhood on children and their well being Debunk the idea that single-parent families and female-headed households are synonyms and that they should remain this way

3 Single Fathers: A Sex/Gender Outlook Single fathers as deviants Are parenting styles engrained in sex and/or gender? Are they immutable or adaptive? Research Questions: How are men coping with single parenthood in comparison to their female counterparts? What are the effects of single fatherhood on children? Does sex affect parenting in single-headed households?

4 Data and Reference Sources Previous Quantitative & Qualitative Data Theory In-depth Interviews

5 Theoretical Underpinnings: the Individualist/Structuralist Debate Individualist Approach Adults will parent in gendered ways - Male and female parents will meet children needs differently Gender roles as Biologically given Part of role-training and gendered role identification Internalized through early socialization or psychological processes, while later becoming stable personality traits Due to the low status of household work and its identification with women, fathers would probably do less of it than mothers would. They would instead focus on different activities Mothers will spend more time on feminine tasks and fathers will spend more on masculine ones

6 Weekly Housework by Sex in Single Parent Household Acock et al. (1995)

7 Psychoanalytical Theory: an Example Nancy Chodorow’s “The Reproduction of Mothering”, 1978 Mothering capacities and desire to mother built into women due to object-relational experiences: Longer attachment with their mothers beyond the pre- oedipal stage Mother-daughter identification Maintenance of more affective connection with familial objects and others past adolescence Femininity develops as connection and relationship and masculinity as the rejection of such Nurturing, empathy and parenting curtailed in boys

8 Theoretical Underpinnings: the Individualist/Structuralist Debate The Structuralist Approach Sex roles not immutable but adaptive ongoing interactions (Risman 1986, 1987) Situational demands of role requirements and embeddedness in social networks influence adult behaviour and demand men to “mother” when there are no wives to depend on If sex-linked structural opportunities and social experiences were controlled, differences between mothers and fathers would be eliminated

9 Single Fatherhood: Effects on Parents Role and task overload Difficulty in developing and maintaining a social life Loneliness “That’s the main point… that you don’t’ have any backup… and you can’t split any chores with anybody, you know… everything is on your shoulders and you have to do it by yourself.” (Gabriel, 35) “Well is hard at the beginning… Is also, there’s a lot of other issues…. children issues, financial issues… I went to a group counseling several times, I didn’t have many friends” (Lynda, 40) Women appeared to look for support groups, while men for organizations with social activities

10 Single Fatherhood: Effects on Parents Areas of particular concern are: The supervision and protection of children, and synchronizing it with a job Homemaking – Though most seem to handle it without outside help The emotional needs of children, especially in preadolescent children Rearing daughters in a motherless environment. Concerns expressed by fathers are primarily related to their daughters sexual life and sexuality (Mendes 1976) Richards and Schmiege, 1993

11 Single fathers spend significantly more time with their children than they would have done in a two parent household – Parenting role adjustment “I’m much closer to her now than I was when I was with Sonia… not that, you know, I wasn’t interested… but Sonia was taking a big part of, you know, homework and activities… so I was more following along…” (Mark, 37) All those interviewed revealed developing a stronger connection with children Strong commitment to be actively involved in their children’s lives (Cooksey and Fondell 1996) One started volunteering in his boys’ school, sitting on the governors board and monitoring at lunch time Single Fatherhood: Effects on Parents Richards and Schmiege 1993

12 Effects on Children If fathers are more suited for discipline, do children in single father households experience more discipline that in single-mother ones? No evidence of more deviance one family setting than other Some find, there is evidence of less enforcement of discipline in single father than in two parent or single mother households: Parental rules by family structure Two interviewed fathers did state that rule enforcement in their homes was more strict than at their ex-spouses But they were adjusting and softening their approach Curtin et al. (1992: 373)

13 Effects on Children Do children in single mother families have a more positive view of themselves and better relationships with others? No evidence to support this Single fathers felt as close and affectionate towards their children as their female counterparts (Risman 1986, 1988) Single father households as likely to have a highly involved parent as female-headed ones (Downey, 1998)

14 Effects on Children Do children in single mother households develop better verbal rather than quantitative skills than children in male headed single households? No evidence supporting it Most conclude that mothers and fathers in single parent households, unlike their two-parent counterpart, do not differ greatly in their interaction with children. Activities are much less gendered in single parent household than two parent ones, as the single parent needs to assume the role of his/her missing partner (Thomson et al 1992)

15 The Social Perspective: Single Mom vs. Superman Unlike expected, some social stereotypes tend to favour single fathers over single mothers “I have a problem with the term single mother. I have a very negative interpretation of that term… I assume people have, have judgments about me from the outset, and, and ideas about, you know, how I am and how I must be raising him… I think single father, then I imagine… you know, a dad who’s come in to rescue his kids, and is more, you know brave, and put his foot forward and has embraced this role, whereas mother, like well, did she have a choice? probably not, you know” (Dana, 25 ) “Because… for example, a father who’s separated, single… uhhh, he’s an attractive person for everyone else… whereas a single or separated mother isn’t the same… she’s garbage, basically” (Paula, 56)

16 The Social Perspective: Single Mom vs. Super Man I do think that people see me as the oh wonderful exception that is doing a wonderful job, like you know, a superhero because I am a single father… and as a single mother it’s, well she’s been dumped, it’s a burden, it it’s something hard to do... she’s the victim… while the father it’s, well you’re lucky, you’re good because you’re doing it and most people wouldn’t and stuff like that, which I don’t think is true.” (Mark, 37) Could single fatherhood be perceived as a way of proving masculinity? How does the single father fit in our current paradigm of hegemonic masculinity? Is parenting counter to it? Will it become engrained in it as a source of respect?


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