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Mothers May Shut Some Fathers Out of Family Work


By Tonya Fischio

The study also showed that these conceptualized dimensions of maternal gatekeeping tend to be a package deal; mothers who scored high in one dimension were generally high in the others as well.

Reluctance to Relinquish Responsibility. Some women discourage their husbands’ involvement by redoing tasks, criticizing, or creating unbending standards in an effort to protect their authority in the home. They may act as household managers by planning, scheduling, and overseeing the work done by their husbands. Their husbands may respond by doing only what is requested, waiting until they are asked to help, and requesting explicit directions.

Maternal Identity Confirmation. The identity of some women is tied to how well they think others view their homemaking and nurturing skills. A woman with this belief is more likely to resist her husband’s involvement, since it would diminish her value.
     Differentiated Family Roles. A woman who believes that the roles for mothers and fathers include a clear division of labor may be hesitant to encourage her husband’s involvement or may closely monitor his participation.

The study found that some women both cherish and resent being the primary caregiver. They feel both relieved and displaced with paternal involvement, are both intentional and hesitant about negotiations for more collaborative sharing, and feel both guilty and liberated when men are more involved.

“This is a very complex subject filled with a variety of gender issues,” says Alan J. Hawkins, second author of the study and director of the BYU Family Studies Center. “With more attention to these issues, perhaps more mothers will be able to achieve greater collaboration with their partners.”

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