One of the most enduring elements of social and behavioral science research in the last half of the 20th century was the scholarly reexamination of traditional ideas about fatherhood and motherhood. For over 200 years maternal behavior had been considered paramount in child development (Kagan, 1978; Stearns, 1991; Stendler, 1950; Sunley, 1955), and fathers were often thought to be peripheral to the job of parenting because children throughout the world spent most of their time with their mothers (Fagot, 1995; Harris, Furstenberg, & Marmer, 1998; Munroe & Munroe, 1994). Some argued that fathers contributed little to children's development except for their economic contributions (Amato, 1998), and others believed that fathers are not genetically endowed for parenting (Belsky, 1998; Benson, 1968). Indeed, even though Margaret Mead concluded that fathers were important contributors to childcare, and that "Anthropological evidence gives no support.. .to the value of such an accentuation of the tie between mother and child" (Mead, 1956, pp. 642-643), Mead (1949) perceived basic differences between fathers and mothers:

The mother's nurturing tie to her child is apparently so deeply rooted in the actual biological conditions of conception and gestation, birth and suckling, that only fairly complicated social arrangements can break it down entirely But the evidence suggests that we should phrase the matter differently for men and women—that men have to learn to want to provide for others, and this behavior, being learned, is fragile and can disappear rather easily under social conditions that no longer teach it effectively. (pp. 191-193)

However, many contemporary scholars now cite a growing body of empirical evidence that parental behaviors are not simply the consequence of biology and human nature, but rather are informed by cultural, historical, and social values, circumstances, and processes. In fact, as gender ideologies shifted in the last half of the 20th century, so too did researchers' exploration of variations in men's and women's behavior generally, and fathering and mothering specifically (Rohner & Veneziano, 2001; Sanchez & Thomson, 1997). Moreover, contemporary perspectives on fatherhood and motherhood are in large part derived from research that concurrently studied fathers and mothers, rather than earlier research that focused almost exclusively on mothers. This chapter discusses some of the literature from this vast body of behavioral science research by first discussing similarities and differences in fathers' and mothers' behavior in Western and non-Western cultures. The chapter also reviews research about the social, cultural, psychological, ethnic, economic, environmental, biological, and evolutionary conditions that influence the parenting practices of mothers and fathers, as well as the social, emotional, behavioral, and psychological consequences for male and female offspring of fathers' and mothers' practices.

Single Parenting

Single Parenting

Finally! You Can Put All Your Worries To Rest! You Can Now Instantly Learn Some Little-Known But Highly Effective Tips For Successful Single Parenting! Understand Your Role As A Single Motherfather, And Learn How To Give Your Child The Love Of Both Parents Single Handedly.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment