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INSTRUCTIONS:  Answer all questions.  Make sure each response is double spaced, with one-inch margins, in 12 point Times or Cambria font.  

There is no need to reproduce the question at the top of the page or provide a formal introduction—this will take up space you could use for your answer.  

Use your own words to explain the different concepts and arguments you reference from authors or other materials that you cite in support of your answers. Do not include direct quotes from readings!

You do not need to provide a reference list for this exam, but you do need to refer to and cite readings to support your answers.No hard copy is needed. All work submitted for this exam must be original and entirely your own.

The page limit for all questions is two pages per question (6 total pages ). This is a strict page limit; your responses must be succinct.

  1. In your own words, explain McLanahan and Sandefur’s arguments about how growing up with a single parent affects children, and Gerson’s argument about family pathways and how they are different from family structure. Then discuss whether the arguments are in conflict with each other or complementary, clearly stating your reasoning. Finally, discuss how you think a focus on either family structure or family pathways might contribute to different understandings of how best to support children when their parents don’t stay together.
  2. Since the beginning of the semester we’ve been investigating the relationships between economic trends and family patterns. Based on Cherlin’s Labor’s Love Lost, describe the economic shifts that began in the 1970s and explain how they are related to the growing gaps in family experiences and patterns by social class in U.S. families today described by both Cherlin and Carlson & England.  In addition to the general discussion, focus on at least two specific family trends (i.e. marriage, non-marital births, divorce, cohabitation, etc. ). Describe each trend and explain how it is related to economic changes.
  3. Explain the logic of why policy makers have considered single parenthood to be an issue that requires government intervention in the U.S., and what they have done to address the growing trend of single parent families, drawing on Promises I Can Keep and the readings on Welfare Reform. Finally, discuss how the findings and conclusions of Promises I Can Keep could inform efforts and approaches by policy makers to affect issues associated with the rise in single parenthood. What would help and why? Make sure to support your responses with examples and evidence from the book about connections between marriage and childbearing, and the meaning of motherhood and marriage for poor women.

Journal of Men’s Studies 2016, Vol. 24(1) 3 –23

© 2016 SAGE Publications Reprints and permissions:

sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/1060826515624381



Constructing Men as Fathers: A Content Analysis of Formulations of Fatherhood in Parenting Magazines

Rachel M. Schmitz1

Abstract Contemporary ideologies of fatherhood reflect the importance of instrumental support of breadwinning men; however, there has been an increased emphasis on the expressive and nurturing aspects of fathers. This content analysis explores popular portrayals of fatherhood as conceptualized in articles (N = 50) from five American parenting magazines. Depictions of fathers fell into categories supportive of hegemonic masculinity that emphasized men’s breadwinning identities over their roles as parents. Men were often cast in ambiguous situations where they struggled to establish their parental legitimacy. Many articles revolved around men’s pathways to fatherhood. Fathers who internalize these portrayals of fatherhood from popular media may not view themselves as true parents if they do not see themselves positively represented in generalist parenting depictions.

Keywords fatherhood, family, masculinity, parenting

Parenting ideologies dominate a wide variety of discourses prevalent in the media that work to shape norms surrounding child-rearing practices and what it means to be a “good parent,” such as proper disciplinary strategies and child educational trajectories (Assarsson & Aarsand, 2011). For both mothers and fathers, popular media, in the form of advice books, magazines, and tutorials, is designed to provide parents with the knowledge and tools to raise children in the most effective way possible. Research shows, however, that it is beneficial for parents to develop critical thinking skills as a

1University of Nebraska–Lincoln, USA

Corresponding Author: Rachel M. Schmitz, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 711 Oldfather Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0324, USA. Email: [email protected]

624381MENXXX10.1177/1060826515624381Journal of Men’s StudiesSchmitz research-article2016

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way to challenge monolithic parenting norms reified in popular media (Aarsand, 2014; Connell-Carrick, 2006). Although mass media possesses the potential to widely dis- seminate parenting knowledge that can improve child-rearing skills on a macro level (Sanders & Prinz, 2008), it is necessary to analyze how conduits of media shape cul- tural conceptions of parenting and the ways these messages influence broader gender ideologies.

In particular, conceptions of fatherhood have undergone a restructuring that is reflected in both mainstream ideologies, as well as the burgeoning discipline of men’s studies and its focus on men’s roles as fathers (Andrews, Luckey, Bolden, Whiting- Fickling, & Lind, 2004; Eggebeen & Knoester, 2001). Research exploring individual men’s interpretations of fatherhood has shown that while men still stress the impor- tance of the instrumental support they provide their children, there has also been an increased emphasis on expressive and nurturing care (Summers, Boller, Schiffman, & Raikes, 2006). Changes in men’s involvement with children have the potential to alter unequal gendered dynamics within the household as well as the workplace (Chesley, 2011). This growing acknowledgment of men’s emotional connection with their chil- dren is unique because it is at odds with the tenets of hegemonic masculinity and tra- ditional fatherhood that detach men from reproduction and parenting (Johansson & Klinth, 2007). As such, further research in this area is needed to better understand contemporary ideologies surrounding fatherhood and how these conceptions can shape family dynamics.

In general, men are commonly portrayed in popular women’s magazines as socially incompetent and in need of women to guide them on the path to civilized, relational awareness (Duran & Prusank, 1997), a trope that is further embedded in gendered parenting discourses. Although there has been a growth in research surrounding por- trayals of fatherhood as perceived by individual men and wider public opinions (Andrews et al., 2004), there is a lack of research that has examined the mechanisms through which these ideologies are formed. Popular media, such as magazines, act as a conduit for shaping perceptions and opinions of fatherhood, with the majority of parenting and family-related magazines overwhelmingly being written for mothers (Greve Spees & Zimmerman, 2003). In general, depictions of fathers revolve around traditional stereotypes with individual men often relating their parenting to their breadwinning status (Ranson, 2001) and media portraying men as secondary parents compared with mothers (Sunderland, 2000). The association of parenthood with women is thus reflected in studies that primarily examine motherhood ideologies in media (Johnston & Swanson, 2003) and those that compare motherhood with father- hood in magazines (Francis-Connolly, 2003; Sunderland, 2006).

Although research has noted an increasing emphasis on the greater involvement of men in parenting (Andrews et al., 2004; Eggebeen & Knoester, 2001), in-depth analy- ses of fatherhood in media outlets are rare. An exclusive focus on fatherhood is needed to not only legitimize fathers as parents but also to understand how fathers are por- trayed in a culture that primarily equates parenting with motherhood. Therefore, the present study fills this gap by examining formulations of fatherhood in five popular parenting magazines published in the United States, which were chosen based on their

Schmitz 5

high rates of readership (Cision Navigator, 2012). Using a content analytic methodol- ogy, this study posits the following research questions to examine portrayals of father- hood within a cultural framework of gendered parenting ideologies:

Research Question 1: How is fatherhood conceptualized in popular printed media? Research Question 2: What stereotypes associated with masculinity and parenting are reinforced or deconstructed in these magazines?

Ideologies surrounding fatherhood have undergone a shift that has transitioned away from traditional breadwinner models and moved to emphasize fathers’ involve- ment with children. As the dual-earner parented household is swiftly becoming the norm in response to increased economic challenges (Cherlin, 2013), families are forced to adjust how they navigate work–family imbalances that include struggles over breadwinning roles as well as housework and child care responsibilities (Gerson & Jacobs, 2004). In addition, women’s increasing rates of labor force participation call for a simultaneous reconceptualization of parenting that includes residential fathers’ greater involvement in caring for children beyond that of instrumental support alone (Cabrera, Tamis-LeMonda, Bradley, Hofferth, & Lamb, 2000). These changes in fam- ily life are also reflected in media representations focusing on the challenges and pit- falls of fatherhood, including television shows, movies, and literature (Kelly, 2009).

As a result of shifts in family dynamics stemming from economic changes, men’s roles as fathers have also undergone transformations. Although studies continue to find that mothers engage in more of the heavy lifting of parenting (i.e., nurturing, multitasking) when compared with fathers (Craig, 2006), developing research also finds greater involvement of fathers in their children’s lives than has been seen in the past. For example, Williams (2008) argued that individual fathers work to shape their own definitions of fatherhood through a process of “detraditionalization,” which deconstructs traditional notions of parenting and creates reflexive experiences of fatherhood. In this process, men continually reflect on their own experiences, which prompts them to improve upon erroneous practices of past generations through their own parenting strategies (Williams, 2008). Although growing numbers of fathers are elevating family responsibility over their commitment to the workplace (Duckworth & Buzzanell, 2009), many continue to conceptualize their roles as fathers as directly tied to their careers (Ranson, 2001). For example, Duckworth and Buzzanell (2009) found that fathers sought to restructure their work–family balance in ways that supported family commitments and wider “webs of responsibilities” in the community, thus complicating men’s roles as breadwinners (p. 563).

Men’s distinctive social locations can also influence their individual parenting beliefs and child-rearing strategies. For example, social class can affect men’s adher- ence to more traditional expectations of public fatherhood, such as among profes- sional, higher income men, while working-class men can challenge stereotypical gender roles by balancing both public and private involvement with children (Shows & Gerstel, 2009). Related to their social-class backgrounds, fathers also struggle to navi- gate competing ideologies of masculinity in specific contexts, such as youth sports,

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that, on one hand, call for traditional masculinity and, on the other, encourage the involved nurturance of children (Gottzén & Kremer-Sadlik, 2012). Linking the micro- and macro levels of parenting, family policy draws on assumptions of class-based parenting, so it is necessary to consider how differential access to economic resources can affect both individual parents and wider cultural conceptions of gendered parent- ing (Gillies, 2008).

While women are still conceptualized as primary caregivers of children, men are also deeply affected by the transition to parenthood on a number of different levels. Involved fathering with residential children is positively correlated with levels of life satisfaction, community involvement, and family connectedness (Eggebeen & Knoester, 2001). Similar studies find that men increasingly emphasize the importance of not only economically providing for children but also supporting offspring through emotional nurturance and being a positive role model through enhanced bonding time and teaching opportunities (Summers et al., 2006). The pathway to fatherhood can also create an identity shift for men as they adapt to new expectations and responsibilities surrounding child care (Habib, 2012). Although they remain a minority demographic, stay-at-home fathers also embody a unique opportunity for understanding how chang- ing family dynamics can also effect change in conceptions of stereotypical gendered expectations of parenting (Chesley, 2011). The effects of transforming views of father- hood are not only evident on the micro level of individuals, but they can also be exam- ined in the broader cultural context of social life.

Constructions of fatherhood in popular media possess the potential to shape stereo- types surrounding fatherhood as well as how individual fathers conceptualize their own roles and responsibilities. American literary fiction is notorious for rendering the stereotypical father as absentee or an extreme disciplinarian who rules with an iron fist (Armengol-Carrera, 2008). Studies comparing how mothers and fathers are dispa- rately portrayed in magazines consistently find that parenthood is overwhelmingly connected to motherhood (Francis-Connolly, 2003; Sunderland, 2006). When depict- ing parents caring for children, magazines more often featured mothers rather than fathers in stereotypical gender roles such as nurturing and expressive support (Francis- Connolly, 2003). In a similar finding, Sunderland (2006) argued that fathers are depicted as “part-time” caregivers, a role in which they provide auxiliary support and relief to mothers (p. 523). While fatherhood is more often equated as a fulfilling aspect of men’s lives in popular magazines, it is also strongly linked to how fathers’ involve- ment could benefit mothers (Milkie & Denny, 2014). From these media analyses, men are often cast as expendable and secondary in the child-rearing endeavor, an image that then serves to demean a man’s value as a parent.

Furthermore, parenting advice and help literature (i.e., medical brochures, preg- nancy guidebooks) often depict fathers as incompetent and secondary to mothers con- cerning child care responsibilities (Sunderland, 2000). In a study analyzing portrayals of fatherhood in a family-oriented Canadian newspaper, Wall and Arnold (2007) found evidence of cultural lag, in that expectations of so-called “involved fathering” are not supported in media that presents fathers as detached from parenting and more closely connects them to breadwinning in comparison with mothers. Representations of fathers

Schmitz 7

in popular television shows also highlight the contradictory nature of fatherhood in that fathers can be viewed as integral to teaching children valuable life lessons at the same time that they are cast in a negative light through portrayals of being clumsy and foolish (Pehlke, Hennon, Radina, & Kuvalanka, 2009). Even when television fathers take on more traditional feminine roles, such as stay-at-home parents, they continue to emphasize their heterosexual masculinity as a way to offset the feminizing effects of nurturing children (Vavrus, 2002). In this way, popular media casts men in the support- ing role of fatherhood, whereas motherhood is conceptualized as the definition of pri- mary caregiver.

Hegemonic Masculinity and Fatherhood

The theoretical conception of hegemonic masculinity illustrates how an idealized ver- sion of masculinity works to systematically subjugate and oppress femininity and women, including men who do not conform to stereotypical ideals of masculinity (Connell, 1987, 2005; Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). In this way, men as a col- lective group possess societal power and privilege even when individual men feel powerless (Kaufman, 1999). Manifestations of hegemonic masculinity include cul- tural representations that illustrate the ideal worker as detached from emotional and family responsibilities, which is especially problematic for fathers who struggle to balance work and home life (Hill, Hawkins, Märtinson, & Ferris, 2003). Generally, the family works to reproduce heterosexual hegemonic masculinity by its cultural heteronormative definition that underscores the heterosexual (husband/wife) model as the gold standard of what it means to be a family (Smith, 1993). Similarly, the motherhood mystique argues that women are the ideal caregivers of children and are fulfilled by child rearing (Ussher, 2011), which calls on the notion of emphasized femininities as a support structure for hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1987). This model can place severe limitations on how men engage with fatherhood if the hege- monic standard for men’s child-rearing roles is restricted to breadwinner and does not include involved nurturer (Donaldson, 1993). As hegemonic masculinity is evi- dent in cultural representations of fatherhood (i.e., breadwinner, disciplinarian; Wall & Arnold, 2007), it is a useful theoretical framework for analyzing depictions of fathers in popular magazines within a cultural context of gendered parenting ideologies.


To conduct this qualitative content analysis, the following five parenting magazines across the time frame 2007 to 2011 were chosen for the sampling frame based on my ability to access their archived magazine issues electronically for analytical purposes: Parenting, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Parents, and American Baby. These five mag- azines were identified as part of the top 10 parenting magazines in the United States based on circulation rates (Cision Navigator, 2012). Table 1 presents how the selected magazine titles were ranked out of the top 10 and their corresponding circulation rates.

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The years of 2007 to 2011 were chosen in part based on the available issues accessible through either an online academic search engine (EBSCO) or the magazine’s website. Parents and American Baby articles were accessed through the magazines’ website (Parents.com), while Parenting, Baby Talk, and Working Mother were available elec- tronically via EBSCO. In addition, this time frame also highlights a burgeoning con- temporary ideology focusing on the increased involvement of fathers in children’s lives that has been reported in research studies as well as depicted in popular media (Gottzén, 2011; McGill, 2014; Wall & Arnold, 2007).

Qualitative document analysis of popular parenting magazine articles allows for an exploration of implicit cultural messages regarding fatherhood and gendered parenting ideologies that exist within a distinctive social context (Altheide, Coyle, DeVriese, & Schneider, 2008; Krippendorff, 2012). Furthermore, it is important to note that these magazines are primarily written as sources of advice and guidance for parents, with the majority aimed at middle-class mothers. Recognizing the intent of the written material to be analyzed in qualitative document analysis is key in understanding its cultural context and social impact (Bowen, 2009). The protocol for data collection (Altheide & Schneider, 2013) included seeking out articles from the popular parenting magazines that addressed this study’s research questions.

Within my multistage sampling plan, I first employed a purposive cluster sampling strategy to hone in on portrayals of fatherhood and utilize elements related to the research question, such that articles were included when they explicitly addressed some manifest content pertaining to fathers and fatherhood within a framework of gendered parenting (Krippendorff, 2012). This method is justified based on the fact that references to fatherhood are in the numerical minority among generalist parenting magazines when compared with the majority of material pertaining to motherhood. Therefore, a purposive cluster sampling strategy is the most efficient method to filter out articles that do not directly pertain to fatherhood (Krippendorff, 2012). The unit of analysis for this study consisted of written articles pertaining to fathers and fatherhood found in each magazine (Altheide & Schneider, 2013). To begin, I created a subsample of articles within each magazine title using the search terms “father” and “dad” to limit the articles related to fatherhood. Within each subsample, I randomly selected 10 fatherhood articles for each magazine from the total time frame 2007 to 2011, resulting in a final sample of 50 articles (N = 50).

Table 1. Parenting Magazines of Interest Ranking and Circulation Rates, 2012.

Magazine title Cision Navigator ranking in top 10 family and

parenting magazines Circulation rate

Parenting No. 1 2,227,350 Parents No. 2 2,215,645 American Baby No. 4 2,002,876 Baby Talk No. 5 2,001,733 Working Mother No. 10 833,601

Schmitz 9

Sample Characteristics

The 50 articles spanned the years 2007 to 2011 from the magazines Parenting, Baby Talk, Working Mother, Parents, and American Baby. All of the articles’ citations can be found in the appendix. Of the sampled articles on fatherhood, all represented a heteronormative image of family life that excluded same-sex couples. On average, articles were approximately 1,058 words in length. Concerning authorship, 30 (60%) of the articles were written by men, 16 (32%) by women, and the remaining four (8%) are considered gender neutral because they were written by a collective (i.e., staff of Parenting magazine) or included personal anecdotes from both mem- bers of a couple. While I randomly selected 10 articles from each magazine, these were not evenly distributed across the time frame 2007 to 2011 for each magazine title, such that the subject of fatherhood clustered around particular publication years more so than others. The majority (16) of articles came from the year 2007 (32%), followed by 2008 (13, 26%), 2011 (10, 22%), 2009 (six, 12%), and 2010 (five, 8%). Based on the overall paucity of articles addressing fatherhood in parent- ing magazines, I was unable to gather an equal number of articles from each year. In terms of topic, eight articles (16%) were specifically designed as advice for fathers, and five (10%) contained direct guidance for mothers in relation to father- hood. Of the articles discussing parents’ perspectives (28), 21 (75%) were from the father’s point of view.


Although an understanding of hegemonic masculinity and fatherhood guided this study, the final themes emerged from the data following multiple rounds of coding and data analysis to become fully engaged with the text and capture its ethnographic con- text (Altheide, 1987; Altheide & Schneider, 2013). This strategy resulted in a “hybrid” analytical framework that combined codes derived from both the theory of hegemonic masculinity as well as the textual data (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). For exam- ple, the code “fathers as breadwinners” was influenced by knowledge of norms sur- rounding masculinity and fatherhood; however, this code evolved into the more nuanced code “economic pressures of child rearing” after examining additional arti- cles and further rounds of analysis. Similarly, theoretical and empirical explorations of fatherhood in media directed the current study’s analyses (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005), which led to a combination of both an emergent and a priori coding schematic (Stemler, 2001). I conducted all qualitative data analyses of the text-based data using the com- puter software QDA Miner. The magazine articles were uploaded to QDA Miner as either Microsoft Word documents or PDF files.

Overall, I completed five rounds of coding, that began broadly and transitioned into more specific ideas concerning fatherhood, resulting in a coding scheme of “tracking discourse” within a shifting cultural framework of gendered parenting (Altheide, 2000). This qualitative method contributes to both the “rich rigor” of this study by enhancing my immersion in and familiarity with the data, as well as its overall

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credibility by allowing the data’s story to emerge naturally (Tracy, 2010). To begin, I examined all of the magazine articles separately to develop a general understanding of how they portrayed fatherhood. Although I began coding the articles with a preestab- lished sense of how fatherhood would be portrayed through a lens of hegemonic mas- culinity, thus creating a type of mental a priori coding frame, I ultimately followed an emergent coding scheme by exploring the articles and identifying their shared mean- ings and messages (Stemler, 2001). Processes of open coding followed by focused coding were completed to establish the foundations of emergent themes and create linkages to identify commonalities and differences among the articles (Charmaz, 2014).

Clusters of codes were then used to formulate the overarching themes and patterns related to broader messages regarding fatherhood, or “the recurring typical theses that run through” the articles (Altheide & Schneider, 2013, p. 53). For example, the codes “economic pressures of child rearing” and “emasculation” were combined to create the broader theme “Negotiating Breadwinner Stereotypes.” Next, codes such as “fathers as incompetent” and “fear of fatherhood” were used to establish the theme “Coming to Terms with Ambiguity and Uncertainty.” Furthermore, the codes of “bonding with child” and “fatherhood as fulfilling” are examples of codes contributing to the final theme of “Navigating the Path to Fatherhood.” Finally, I used thematic analysis to extract representative examples of the major themes from the correspond- ing codes within articles that best illustrated the concepts of interest (Fereday & Muir- Cochrane, 2006). This study’s resonance is improved upon by establishing accessible, overarching themes from the data that are transferable to readers’ experiences as both scholars and human beings (Tracy, 2010).

The process of first identifying fatherhood-related articles and subsequent data analyses consisted of a circular method of tracking my interpretations through numer- ous iterations of coding by returning to the articles multiple different times. This method allowed me to immerse myself in the data and capture meanings and messages in the articles that I may have missed in previous rounds of coding. While I entered into the analysis of the magazine articles with an open mind, I must reflexively con- sider how my own scholarly background in men and masculinities studies may have influenced my reading of the articles by priming me for gendered depictions of parent- ing. Throughout data analysis, I grappled with the challenge of acknowledging how my own personal critiques of media and its reification of stereotypes shaped my cod- ing processes and textual interpretations. As a gender scholar, I am well aware of the widespread dissemination of gendered stereotypes throughout the media, and my con- stant critical analyses of these in my daily life led me to pursue this project and make sense of my perceptions in a systematic study (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 1995). In this way, my academic background and my role as a media consumer shaped my motiva- tion for this analysis, and it is necessary to consider how these factors influenced study findings. This reflexive consideration expands on the potential for bias within the find- ings at the same time that it promotes the quality of this study by enhancing its overall sincerity and transparency (Tracy, 2010).

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Fatherhood’s portrayal in popular parenting magazines in the United States follows a stereotypical gendered formula with few exceptions. Depictions of fathers predomi- nantly fell into categories supportive of hegemonic masculinity that emphasized men’s masculine identities as overshadowing their roles as parents. In addition, men were often cast in ambiguous parenting situations where they struggled to establish their legitimacy as parents. Finally, many articles revolved around men’s pathways to and struggles with fatherhood. The three major themes that emerged from the magazine articles included the following messages depicting portrayals of responses to father- hood: Negotiating Breadwinner Stereotypes, Coming to Terms With Ambiguity and Uncertainty, and Navigating the Path to Fatherhood. These themes, however, are not mutually exclusive as the majority of articles addressed multiple different portrayals of fatherhood simultaneously, resulting in a combination of codes for the same article that spanned several different nuanced themes of representations of fatherhood. Percentages provided within each theme are derived from the number of articles that contained the corresponding codes for those particular characteristics. Illustrative quo- tations from each theme are outlined in Table 2.

Negotiating Breadwinner Stereotypes

The majority of articles (n = 44) highlighted men’s masculine identity in some way, ranging from fears related to emasculation or promoting gender stereotypes concern- ing men’s strength and resilience. Although cultural ideals appear to be promoting a new style of fatherhood that encourages fathers to be move involved in their children’s lives, representations of fathers in popular parenting magazines strongly reinforce hegemonic masculinity. For example, an emphasis on the breadwinning role of fathers was evident in 20% of the articles (n = 10), which included any reference to father

Table 2. Constructions of Fatherhood Sample Magazine Article Quotes.

Qualitative themes Selected qualitative quotes

Negotiating breadwinner stereotypes

Maybe it’s a function of how dads are genetically wired, but we can’t look into our children’s little eyes without seeing visions of college tuitions, spring breaks, trips abroad, and the little Picasso who’s going to grow up to be a starving artist.

Coming to terms with ambiguity and uncertainty

When we were in the delivery room, I was a little let down by how let down I was. I had hoped for a surge of delight and confidence . . . Wishful thinking, clearly.

Navigating the path to fatherhood

It’s our own little father-son vaudeville routine: Isaac zips around the apartment smiling, his half-open diaper hanging from his side, and I scurry after him with a tube of A+D cream.

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employment. As the breadwinner has historically and stereotypically been conceptual- ized to be the realm of men within families, this status was also closely tied with fathers’ identities as men, and this cultural message reinforces norms of …



FAMILY DIVERSITY IS THE NEW NORMAL FOR AMERICA’S CHILDREN A briefing paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families By Philip Cohen, University of Maryland September 4, 2014 People often think of social change in the lives of American children since the 1950s as a movement in one direction – from children being raised in married, male-breadwinner families to a new norm of children being raised by working mothers, many of them unmarried. Instead, we can better understand this transformation as an explosion of diversity, a fanning out from a compact center along many different pathways. The dramatic rearrangement of children’s living situations since the 1950s

At the end of the 1950s, if you chose 100 children under age 15 to represent all children, 65 would have been living in a family with married parents, with the father employed and the mother out of the labor force. Only 18 would have had married parents who were both employed. As for other types of family arrangements, you would find only one child in every 350 living with a never-married mother!

Today, among 100 representative children, just 22 live in a married male-breadwinner family, compared to 23 living with a single mother (only half of whom have ever been married). Seven out of every 100 live with a parent who cohabits with an unmarried partner (a category too rare for the Census Bureau to consider counting in 1960) and six with either a single father (3) or with grandparents but no parents (3