Fatherhood: Contemporary Theory, Research, and Social Policy


Edited by: William Marsiglio

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  • Research on Men and Masculinities Series

    Series Editor:

    MICHAEL S. KIMMEL, suny Stony Brook

    Contemporary research on men and masculinity, informed by recent feminist thought and intellectual breakthroughs of women's studies and the women's movement, treats masculinity not as a normative referent but as a problematic gender construct. This series of interdisciplinary, edited volumes attempts to understand men and masculinity through this lens, providing a comprehensive understanding of gender and gender relationships in the contemporary world. Published in cooperation with the Men's Studies Association, a Task Group of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.


    • Maxine Baca Zinn
    • Robert Brannon
    • Cynthia Cockburn
    • Jeff Hearn
    • Martin P. Levine
    • William Marsiglio
    • David Morgan
    • Joseph H. Pleck
    • Robert Staples
    • Bob Blauner
    • Harry Brod
    • R.W. Connell
    • Clyde Franklin II
    • Gregory Herek
    • Robert A. Lewis
    • Michael A. Messner

    Volumes in this Series

    • Steve Craig (ed.)


    • Peter M. Nardi (ed.)


    • Christine L. Williams (ed.)

      DOING WOMEN'S WORK: Men in Nontraditional Occupations

    • Jane C. Hood (ed.)


    • Harry Brod and Michael Kaufman (eds.)


    • Edward H. Thompson, Jr. (ed.)


    • William Marsiglio (ed.)


    • Donald Sabo and David Frederick Gordon (eds.)


    • Cliff Cheng (ed.)


    • Lee H. Bowker (ed.)



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    If opinion polls are to be believed, American men speak with a single voice on the subject of fatherhood: We all want to be good fathers—caring, nurturing, involved with our children in ways our own fathers never were with us. Such desires cut across lines of race, of class, of ethnicity, of region or the country.

    Fatherhood is also political. Some right-wing groups support fathers' rights (as against mothers or experience-wives), while others, like the PromiseKeepers (a conservative evangelical Christian organization founded by the football coach at the University of Colorado) promote a responsible fatherhood based on traditional Christian values, in which the father works to provide for his intact nuclear family and his wife stays home with the children. Each weekend, thousands of men troop off to the woods for a therapeutic “mythopoetic” experience, there to “heal the father wound”—to reconnect with fathers who were inexpressive, unloving, abusive, or simply absent—and thereby discover their own ability to nurture and care for their children.

    Profeminist men often take a different tack altogether, placing men's experience of fatherhood within a larger social, economic, and political context. What are the structural barriers to men's ability to be more active fathers? How does the structure of the workplace—the radical spatial and temporal separation from the home, workplace demands, career aspirations—affect men's experience of fatherhood? Structural reforms—on-site child care, flexible work hours, parental leave—are necessary innovations for men to become more active and nurturing fathers. Currently, we see these reforms as “women's issues,” desired by women so that they can balance work and family. Obviously, these are not “women's” issues; they are parents' issues, and to the extent that men seek to be active and involved parents, they will support these innovative changes as well.

    Which, of course, leaves us with the question of motivation. What kinds of interpersonal obstacles do men face in their efforts to become more active and engaged fathers? What types of personal challenges do men face if they attempt to be the fathers that they say they want to be? Most important, how are men faring in the midst of this sea of change in the way we parent? What are the differences among groups of men as we attempt to chart our ways through what appear to be totally uncharted waters?

    These are the kinds of questions raised in this, the seventh volume in the Sage Series on Research on Men and Masculinities. The purpose of this series is to gather the finest empirical research and theoretical analysis in the social sciences that focuses on the experiences of men in contemporary society.

    Following the pioneering research of feminist scholars over the past two decades, social scientists have come to recognize gender as one of the primary axes around which social life is organized. Gender is now seen as equally central as class and race, both at the macro, structural level of the allocation and distribution of rewards in a hierarchical society, and at the micro, psychological level of individual identity formation and interpersonal interaction.

    Social scientists distinguish gender from sex. Sex refers to biology, the biological dimorphic division of male and female; gender refers to the cultural meanings that are attributed to those biological differences. Although biological sex varies little, the cultural meanings of gender vary enormously. Thus we speak of gender as socially constructed; the definitions of masculinity and femininity as the products of the interplay among a variety of social forces. In particular, we understand gender to vary spatially (from one culture to another), temporally (within any one culture over historical time), and longitudinally (through any individual's life course). Finally, we understand that different groups within any culture may define masculinity and femininity differently, according to subcultural definitions; race, ethnicity, age, class, sexuality, and region of the country all affect our different gender definitions. Thus it is more accurate to speak of “masculinities” and “femininities” than positing a monolithic gender construct. It is the goal of this series to explore the varieties of men's experiences, remaining mindful of specific differences among men and also aware of the mechanisms of power that inform both men's relations with women and men's relations with other men.

    The articles in this book help us to consider the issues facing the contemporary American father as well as a variety of his experiences. This volume thus helps to fill a deep need among American scholars and students—not to see fatherhood bathed in the rosy glow of some mythic past, or idealized through some vague notions of quality time and self-fulfillment, but through the clear lens of research on the experience of fathers, the construction of fatherhood, both as ideology and as a set of practices.

    Michael S.Kimmel Series Editor


    Fatherhood: Contemporary Theory, Research, and Social Policy evolved out of my earlier guest editorship of the December 1993 and March 1994 volumes of the Journal of Family Issues (JFI). Both of these “special issue” volumes were devoted to fatherhood. I received a large number of high-quality proposals in response to my initial call for papers for the JFI project. After reviewing 55 proposals, I decided to include five theoretical essays and two empirical studies in the December issue and seven studies based on national survey data in the March issue.

    Given the quality of these manuscripts and the growing interest in fatherhood topics among scholars, policymakers, and the general public, I decided to use some of the articles as the foundation for this edited Fatherhood book. The introductory chapter is a revision of the thematic essay I prepared for the JFI series. I have updated the thematic essay by incorporating some of the most recent sociological literature on fathers and I deleted my previous discussion of social policy issues from this chapter (I include a discussion of fatherhood and social policy in Chapter 5). Chapter 1 provides an overview of sociologically relevant scholarship on fatherhood. Because this chapter reviews much of the material from the other 12 chapters in this volume, I only mention them briefly here.

    In addition to the opening chapter, this book includes six chapters (2, 3, 4, 6, 9, and 12) that were originally published in the two-volume JFI series (with a few very minor editorial changes in some cases). I chose these six articles because they dealt with important theoretical and substantive issues that I felt should be represented in an edited volume and they also seemed to be the most accessible to scholars, policymakers, and students interested in fatherhood issues from a sociological or social psychological perspective. The three chapters by Daly; Hawkins, Christiansen, Sargent, and Hill; and Ihinger-Tallman, Pasley, and Buehler focus on theoretical issues pertaining to paternal modeling, fatherhood and adult development, and fathers' postdivorce identity. Ishii-Kuntz, Seltzer and Brandreth, and Bertoia and Drakich add to the breadth of this volume by providing a cross-cultural analysis of paternal involvement, a methodologically oriented analysis of fathers' involvement with their children after separation, and a qualitative analysis of the disparities between fathers' rhetoric and behavior within the fathers' rights movement.

    This book also includes five new chapters. Four of these chapters (7, 8, 10, and 13) were solicited from other authors. Because fathers' perceptions and circumstances vary dramatically within U.S. society, I solicited new empirical studies that examined concerns relevant to African American, disadvantaged, and single fathers. Furstenberg's qualitative study explores the firsthand accounts of how parenthood is negotiated and what it represents to a small sample of young inner-city African American young men and women. Mosley and Thomson, on the other hand, use a quantitative approach and national survey data to consider how fathers' race and poverty status are related to their children's academic performance and school behavior problems. Greif and DeMaris's Chapter 10 focuses on the growing population of single fathers by using longitudinal data to consider some of the ways these fathers may change over time. Coltrane provides the conclusion for this book in Chapter 13 by speculating about the prospects for fathers' involvement in family life in the future. I prepared the remaining new manuscript (Chapter 5) to underscore the connections between theoretical issues and social interventions germane to fatherhood. Finally, the growing visibility of stepfathers in U.S. society led me to include a slightly updated version of an article on stepfathers I published in JFI in 1992.

    Given that a number of these articles were first conceived and written independent of the Research on Men and Masculinities series, most do not explicitly emphasize gender or masculinity themes. Nonetheless, I believe this collection of chapters informs the emerging body of scholarship that addresses men's fatherhood experiences in their gendered family and social environments. I also hope that this book will raise numerous questions for those who are interested specifically in the gender-related aspects of fatherhood.

    I would like to thank a number of people who have played a role in bringing this book to fruition. I would first like to thank Patricia Voydanoff, the recent editor of JFI, who solicited and supported my guest editorship of the JFI two-volume series on fatherhood. Moreover, I am indebted to a number of colleagues who graciously assisted me in reviewing the manuscripts that were reprinted from the JFI series. These persons include Terry Arendell, Theodore Cohen, Scott Coltrane, Philip A. Cowan, Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Patricia Freudiger, Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman, Michael Lamb, S. Philip Morgan, Frank L. Mott, Sheldon Stryker, and Merry White. I would like to express my appreciation to the editors of this book, Mitch Allen (Executive Editor for Sage) and Michael Kimmel (Series Editor) for their support. They have encouraged me for the past 6 or 7 years to undertake a project of this nature; their persistence paid off. I would also like to thank Stacy Smith for helping me compile the indices for this volume. The last person I would like to acknowledge is my father, Domenick Marsiglio. It is unlikely that this project would have seen the light of day if I had not adopted the disciplined and hardworking lifestyle he modeled for me. It brings me much pleasure, then, to dedicate this volume on fatherhood to my own loving father. Thank you Dad!

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    Author Index

    About the Authors

    Carl E. Bertoia is a Sessional Instructor in sociology at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He is currently finishing his doctoral degree in sociology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. In his dissertation, he examines the fathers' rights movement, specifically the threats to fatherhood identity as a major social process. His interests include theories of self and identity, masculinity, family, and qualitative methods.

    Yvonne Brandreth is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin. Her primary areas of interest are family demography and gender. She is Research Assistant on a project exploring demographic and social issues in child support. She is currently working on her dissertation on the psychological and structural determinants of father disengagement from children following divorce.

    Cheryl Buehler, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Her major research interests include the effects of marital conflict on youth and the correlates of divorce adjustment.

    Shawn L. Christiansen, M.S., was a graduate student in the Department of Family Sciences at Brigham Young University when his chapter was written. He is now a doctoral student in the Department of Individual and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. His research interests include fathering, Japanese family life, and parental involvement in early childhood education.

    Scott Coltrane, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. His research on gender, families, and social change has appeared in American Journal of Sociology, Gender & Society, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Journal of Family Issues, Social Problems, and Sociological Perspectives. He is coauthor (with Randall Collins) of Sociology of Marriage and the Family: Gender, Love, and Property (fourth edition, 1995). His most recent book, Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework and Gender Equity (1995), focuses on the personal, social, and political implications of men's changing family roles.

    Kerry J. Daly, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the University of Guelph. His research on fatherhood is concerned with the meanings of family time for fathers, the gender politics of family time, and the way that fatherhood is socially constructed. He is interested in adoptive kinship and is coauthor (with Michael Sobol) of Adoption in Canada (1993). He has also focused on the use of qualitative methods to study families and is coeditor of Qualitative Methods in Family Research (1992).

    Alfred DeMaris is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. His interests include statistical applications and the study of the family. He is the author of Logit Modeling: Practical Applications (1992) as well as additional papers on logistic regression. He is the author or coauthor of a number of other articles on premarital cohabitation and its relationship to subsequent marital quality and stability, single fathers, and violence in intimate relationships.

    Janice Drakich, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her work in the area of the family has focused on child custody issues, fatherhood, and fathers' rights groups. In 1994 she received a 3-year research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to examine the status of women academics in Canadian universities. Her other theory and research interests are in the areas of social psychology and women's studies.

    Frank F. Furstenberg Jr., Ph.D., is Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of a number of books on the family, including Adolescent Families in Later Life and Divided Families. His current research projects focus on the family in the context of disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, adolescent sexual behavior, and changes in the well-being of children.

    Geoffrey L. Greif is Associate Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. The author or coauthor of four books on single-parent issues (including The Daddy Track and the Single Father, 1990) and two forthcoming books, he has also published numerous journal articles and chapters on group work, family therapy, parental kidnapping, and the impact of AIDS on the family.

    Alan J. Hawkins, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Family Sciences at Brigham Young University. His research interests include fathering, men's adult development, and the allocation of domestic labor in dual-earner families.

    E. Jeffrey Hill is a Ph.D. candidate in family and human development at Utah State University. He is Senior Account Representative in Human Resources Research at Workforce Solutions, an IBM company. His research interests include work/family issues, full-time fatherhood, and the influence of children on their parents. He is the editor of the DAD/S Newsletter, in which fathers from 35 states share their parenting ideas. He took a 6-month unpaid paternity leave from IBM and wrote about his experiences in Good Housekeeping (1990).

    Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Washington State University. She has published extensively on the subject of remarriage and stepparenting and sibling behavior in families. A number of her published pieces deal with theory construction and she has developed theories that attempt to explain sibling conflict and norms of equity, sibling/stepsibling relationships, factors influencing the quality of life of single parents, and father parenting identity after divorce.

    Masako Ishii-Kuntz, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. Her research on fathers' roles in comparative perspective, and division of household labor and child care, has appeared in Journal of Marriage and the Family, Journal of Family Issues, and Sociological Perspectives, among others. She is the author of Ordinal Log-Linear Models (1994) and recently completed a book manuscript comparing Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino American families. She was guest editor for a 1994 volume of the Journal of Family Issues devoted to international perspectives on work and family. She is presently studying Japanese dual-earner couples who share housework and child care responsibilities.

    William Marsiglio, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Florida. His current theory and research interests include men's issues as they relate to sexuality, procreation, contraception, child support, child care, parenting, and primary relationships of men of varying ages. His research on men has appeared in Journal of Marriage and the Family, Sex Roles, Family Planning Perspectives, Journal of Family Issues, Journal of Sex Research, Marriage and Family Review, and Journal of Gerontology, among others. He was recently guest editor for two volumes of the Journal of Family Issues devoted to fatherhood issues. He recently completed a book manuscript, Families and Friendships: Applying the Sociological Imagination.

    Jane Mosley, M.S., is pursuing her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. Her research interests focus on child well-being, particularly the role of poverty in the lives of children.

    Kay Pasley, Ed.D., is Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her research interests have focused on the marital dyad in remarriage, multiple remarriage, and stress and coping in pregnant and parenting adolescents. Much of her work in the study of remarriage has been in conjunction with Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman. Together they have published three books, a number of book chapters, and various articles on remarriage. Her current attention is directed toward the application of identity theory and social cognition principles to fathering in divorced and remarried families.

    Kathryn Pond Sargent received her M. A. in family life education from Brigham Young University. Her primary areas of interest include issues relating to single-parent and remarried families, father involvement in child care, and women and religion.

    Judith A. Seltzer, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She is interested in the social definition of kinship and inequality within and between families. Her recent publications examine the relationships among legal custody, child support, and contact between parents and children who live apart. She has also written about the effects on children of separation and divorce.

    Elizabeth Thomson, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She is also a faculty member of the Center for Demography and Ecology. Her current research focuses on the consequences of divorce and remarriage for children, fertility decisions and behaviors, and methodological issues in measurement and modeling with couple or parent-child data. She has served as a member of the design team for the National Survey of Families and Households since its inception.

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