At-Home Fathers, Breadwinning Mothers: Relational Dialectics in Lived vs. Mediated Experiences of Fathers as Primary Caregivers
MetadataShow full item record
While a growing body of research demonstrates the importance of involved fathers in healthy child development (Child & Family Research Partnership, 2018), very involved fathers – those acting as primary caregivers for their children – must contend with a number of stereotyped societal expectations about hegemonic masculinity, which in the U.S. place men in the traditional “breadwinner” role (Ammari & Schoenebeck, 2016; Medved, 2016; Parker & Stepler, 2017). Fathers who do stay home often report feelings such as identity struggle, career derailment, social stigma, and social isolation (Ammari & Schoenebeck, 2016; Beaubien, 2018; Cripe, 2007; Livesay, 2008a; Ludden, 2013; Harrington et al., 2012) that may come from adopting a role inconsistent with their primary socialization (Coskuner-Balli & Thompson, 2012). At the same time, the willingness of fathers to challenge these societal norms and assume primary caregiving duties can have a significant positive impact on the career trajectories of their breadwinning partners (Beaubien, 2018; Harrington et al., 2012), and also challenge or reduce gender stereotypes over time (Chesley, 2011; Harrington et al., 2012; Medved, 2016). A source for social construction of gender roles and parenting schema may be mediated depictions of parenthood, which may both reflect and perpetuate parenting and gender role stereotypes. Similarly to schema, mental models, or individualized cognitive frameworks people hold regarding the “general idea of a specific phenomenon” and are used to interpret or evaluate subsequent information, are often produced through media viewing (Mastro, Behm-Morawitz & Ortiz, 2007). However, research suggests that in the case of mothers, mediated representations of motherhood do not accurately reflect the lived experience of at-home mothers, while still shaping the parent’s thinking and feeling about the self (Orgad, 2016). Although the experiences of both working and stay-at-home mothers have been explored in the literature, (e.g. Buzzanell, Meisenbach, Remke, Liu, Bowers & Conn, 2005; Orgad, 2016; Meisenbach, 2010), more work is needed to better understand how stay-at-home fathers negotiate the identity struggle that comes with taking on a role that challenges hegemonic masculinity. This mixed-methods study will build on previous scholarship that has examined relationships between media portrayals and the lived experiences of stay-at-home mothers to extend this line of inquiry to stay-at-home fathers.