Kaimi put up a sidebar link to a NYT piece on parenting. It had an interesting quote:
“Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.”
It goes on to give a few examples of ways fathers interact differently with their children than mothers, on average. If these are averages, than many of you will recognize them as familiar, while others may find them completely outside your parenting experience
The researchers claim that the differences tend to work out for the kids, given that the couple supports one another in how each of them do things. Otherwise not so much.
Fathers indeed do not mother. But they sure do a good job (when they do what they are supposed to do) at being fathers.
Frank, is there some conclusion you think we ought to draw from this fairly banal observation?
I thought research on the interchangeability, or lack thereof, of fathers and mothers would be interesting to Mormons thinking about families.
Not you, apparently.
It’s not that it’s not interesting–I just wanted to know where you’re going with it. I don’t think anybody (even folks who think men and women should be free to divide childcare responsibilities in non-traditional ways) thinks men’s and women’s parenting styles are identical. I’m interested to know what you think this data (?) adds to the discussion.
I am curious about the study done. Doesn’t it seem intuitive that someone would perform better at new task completion when the person they live with is aware of the tasks they’ve been assigned to complete? ie- Fathers who’s wives know what the Fathers have committed to do are more likely to do it due to positive peer pressure.
Well, I suppose that if men and women parent differently, one might be able to take advantage of that in how one arranges parenting responsibilities. For example, if one parent has a comparative advantage in certain parts of the parenting responsibilities, some specialization might be valuable.
As a matter of fact, most members probably agree that the Proclamation on the Family encourages parental specialization, and in general Mormons are interested in research related to revelation.
On the other hand, if one is a single parent it might be worth thinking about what areas one might wish to bolster in one’s parenting, given the lack of the other parent.
But I don’t particularly think this article magically resolves all those issues on its own. Rather I thought it was a reminder of some interesting issues relevant to los Mormones.
It’s a short article, so I’d suggest reading it because Frank doesn’t really get to the main point of the article in the post, which I took to be that fathers are marginalized by the dominant paradigm of mothers being the primary caretakers of children. The experts in the article suggested more TV commercials featuring fathers changing diapers, making dinner, etc., more doctor’s offices with photos/pictures of fathers involved with their children, and fewer assumptions on the part of health care professionals and school officials that the fathers aren’t sufficiently informed about their own children to answer questions about their children’s health or education.
While the differences in parenting styles is interesting, there should be more of an effort on everyone’s part to actively encourage fathers to be involved with their children in the same way that mothers are, instead of acting as if fathers are ineffective/inattentive parents and then wondering why fathers never show up to doctor’s appointments or school meetings (or when they do, the same people ignore the fathers and speak only to the mothers).
That’s a good point ECS.
Perhaps the way priesthood responsibility is tied to fatherhood responsibility helps encourage this kind of paternal involvement in Mormon families.
Frank, the priesthood/motherhood divide is a hotly debated topic as you know. If the Mormon version of “fathering” is limited to fathers presiding over family prayers and giving priesthood blessings every once in awhile, it would be reasonable to assume that Mormon fathers wouldn’t have the first clue as to their childrens’ shoe sizes or the names of their schoolteachers.
It also turns out that, on average, men have slightly better spatial reasoning than women and that women, on average, are more articulate and socially adept. I guess this is a great reason to forbid women from becoming engineers and stop men from becoming social workers. It makes perfect sense because, as we all know, modest observable differences in aggregate populations should be used to make snap judgments about individuals and limit what roles they play in society. I’m glad we cleared that up.
Of course, the counterargument to this is that as long as the fathers are sufficient financial providers, their wives are in charge of knowing their children’s shoe sizes and schoolteachers . Is this what you mean by “parental specialization”?
LOL, MoHoHawaii. I wonder if the guy who defined comparative advantage with an example of trading Portuguese wine for English cloth would take specialization that far.
Better go google his name.
Having spent half my life in elder’s quorums, I can happily assure you that in my experience the priesthood responsibilities of fatherhood, as presented to the elders, are not limited to presiding over family prayer and occasional priesthood blessings.
Rather they are broadly based around looking to the welfare of one’s children and wife (temporally sure but typically the emphasis is on the more spiritual aspects).
I would guess that, from where most fathers are, following the counsel they receive in priesthood settings would represent a distinct increase in involvement and effort in their family.
“Rather they are broadly based around looking to the welfare of one’s children and wife.”
This is non-responsive. Of course fathers are “looking to” their children’s welfare and are involved in their children’s lives at some level. But the devil, however incarnate, is in the details.
“Is this what you mean by “parental specialization”?”
I don’t think so. It does not appear to me that fathers that merely financially provide for their families are doing enough, especially not in the U.S., given our comparatively high average wages.
You seem to want to make this about limiting people or restricting them. I think about it in terms of people with extremely limited information trying to find the optimal parenting arrangement.
What details are you concerned about? You cut off the part of my comment about the concern being focused on spiritual aspects.
Also, let me say this again so it does not get lost:
“I would guess that, from where most fathers are, following the counsel they receive in priesthood settings would represent a distinct increase in involvement and effort in their family.”
The opening anecdote of the little girl spending time with her dad as he worked on cars resonated with me, because I used to love to spend time watching my dad work in his darkroom. Sometimes he would let me “help” by having me set a timer or pour in some chemical he had measured, just as the article’s father probably occasionally asked his little girl to hand him that wrench thingy. Most of the time, though, I just stood and watched. I loved it, for no identifiable reason.
That was completely different from my mother’s behavior when I watched her work. She was always explaining, actively teaching, making sure I learned what we were doing.
Mom was kind and soft. Dad was blunt and gruff. Mom couldn’t remember a joke to save her life. Dad was always telling stupid jokes. Mom bandaged my cuts. Dad hugged me when I was scared silly by a huge bee.
They were very different. It’s hard to tell what was merely differences between two random personalities, and what differences were due to their being male and female.
In any case, they parented differently, and I needed and noticed the differences.
I suspect the provoking of those memories comes closer to the article, and closer to Frank’s point in posting about it, than trite complaints about Proclamation language.
Ardis, I think you’re exactly right.
In many ways, mothers marginalize fathers (intentionally or unintentionally), when mothers want the recognition of being the primary caretaker. For differing reasons, mothers don’t want to be “equal partners” with the father(s) of their children. Mothers sometimes use information like their children’s shoe sizes to criticize the father’s lack of involvement in their children’s lives whether it’s warranted or not. This “gatekeeping” parenting approach with the mother “presiding” over the father is counterproductive for both fathers and mothers, but is fairly common.
Phatherhood, the fourth P.
Perhaps, ECS, you should google “correllation” and “Anthropometry.”
Thanks Ardis, that is very interesing and very much the sort of comment I was interested in.
“This “gatekeeping” parenting approach with the mother “presiding” over the father is counterproductive for both fathers and mothers, but is fairly common.”
I think this is true. I also think that this would be even more of a problem among Mormons if the Church was not regularly shoving fathers back into the fray.
I think Dr Kyle Pruett is minimizing and whitewashing the differences between male and female care, at least when it comes to small children. Across aggregate populations*, males are less responsive to infant cues and more likely to harm infants than are females, among other observable differences in caregiving. So it seems to me that fathers—again, across large cohorts—tend to do things differently in ways that *are* worse for babies. Sorry, guys!
Fortunately, human infants are fairly adaptable and in most individual cases babies will do fine even with male-style primary care. And certainly I don’t wish to dispute the take-home message from the study, namely that we should support and encourage paternal investment. Paternal investment is responsive to environmental conditions, and it makes a big difference in outcomes for kids.
*all the standard caveats apply, but after all the study looks at aggregate behavior; that’s what we’re talking about
Rosalynde – yeah, but _how_ worse? Is the baby “injured” if the father dresses her in ugly clothes and mismatched socks? I think by focusing on the differences between men and women, we do waaaaaaaaaaaay more harm than good. (and fuel the “gatekeeping”).
That’s a good point, Rosalynde.
One of my friends is married to a woman who is an executive for a Fortune 50 firm. They have two kids, and my friend interrupted his career to take care of the kids. In terms of personality, his wife is a “driver” and my friend is what you might call a “nurturer.” They are both smart, capable people. I remember my friend visited me once and his wife stayed home with the kids. While he was away, his wife called him because one of the kids got sick and she had no idea who the pediatrician was or what to do, etc. He gave her the info over the phone and helped resolve the situation, much as a stay-at-home mom might have done.
I know both of these people well, and I can tell you that their kids are turning out just fine. (More than fine, actually.) They aren’t doing it the same way as everybody else. So what?
I also know several gay couples with extremely well adjusted and happy children. They aren’t doing it the same way as everybody else. So what? Are we to use the observation that mothers and fathers tend, in the aggregate, to have different but equally effective parenting styles as the basis for the legal persecution of such families?
In #15, Frank McIntyre said:
Are you trying to find the optimal parenting arrangement for yourself or for others? If it’s for yourself, we have no quarrel. Go for it, with my blessing. You should absolutely choose the parenting arrangement that makes sense for you, your spouse and your children.
“Are you trying to find the optimal parenting arrangement for yourself or for others?”
I am not attempting to force anything on anyone. It’s a blog post, not the Gulag.
Re #26, I appreciate this point of view.
#21, Frank, I completely agree. It sure seems to me that the church (at least in the last decades) is using priesthood discussions to ensure that the father is involved in the parenting, and not abdicating all responsibility to the mother.
The major contradiction I see with the church’s position in all of this is what it tells mothers.
We all agree that fathers should be more involved in the day to day care of their children. Most of us will even agree that what men hear at church pushes them in that direction. Again, many of us will agree that maternal gate-keeping (mothers consciously or unconsciously pushing fathers away from their children) is a negative thing.
However much of what the church teaches women about womanhood, and motherhood and their roles in families are the very things that are heavily associated with maternal gate-keeping.
Things such as
– “woman’s self-identity [being] tied to how well she thinks others view her homemaking and nurturing skills”
-“roles for mothers and fathers that reflect a clear division of labor and distinct spheres of influence”
I have never once heard at church that I should take a step back from my kids to let my husband nurture our children. But according to this article it is more effective to get mothers to lay off than it is to push fathers into the fray.
Some things I liked and agreed with about the article.
1. Fathers “tend” to parent differently and those differences are sometimes good, therefore, mothers should not expect typical “mothering” from their child’s father. A mother might not realize that she is comparing the father’s parenting to typical female parenting and be blind to the benefits of “fathering.”
2. Intervention to improve parenting is more effective if it involves both parents together rather than just fathers. Parents understanding and supporting each other’s efforts is difficult but has a huge effect.
While an article like this might anger some people, for many others it is helpful. Why can’t I read an article that says men (on average) tend to use humor differently in parenting or are concerned and watching out for different issues in a child’s life? If this type of article leads to understanding the benefits of a masculine point of view to parenting it helps the overall respect and balance of gender issues that will decrease sexism in the long term.
“I have never once heard at church that I should take a step back from my kids to let my husband nurture our children.”
Have you ever heard that a father should preside in the home?
I have heard that fathers are supposed to preside. And from what I’ve heard in those same lessons that means that they conduct family home evening and pick who says the twice daily family prayer. Sometimes they mention (in RS, I’m sure they mention this more often in EQ or HP) one on one time with the kids, but those are made to sound more like PPIs than real bonding. That isn’t exactly the intimate sort of nurturing we’re talking about here is it?
I’ve even heard lessons about supporting our husbands in their priesthood duties. Invariably the discussion centers around making sure that we encourage them to attend their meetings and do their home teaching. Often it turns to not being bitter that you have to get the kids ready for church by yourself because your husband is at meetings (or similar). Rarely do those lessons focus on the husband’s priesthood duties to his family, and even more rarely do they focus on encouraging fathers to emotionally nurture the kids.
The point I’m getting at is that women are in the RS room hearing about how good mothering is the most important part about being a woman, while men are down the hall being told to take more interest in their kids. According to the research on maternal gate-keeping those two messages are not complementary, and may in fact be contradictory. If we want men to take more interest in their kids we have to make sure that women get that message too.
“I have never once heard at church that I should take a step back from my kids to let my husband nurture our children. ”
Me either. But it is among the best counsel I ever got from my husband, and has made all the difference. Maybe there needs to be more teaching of this.
I wouldn’t complain re: a combined RS/PH mtg where this was discussed. It took me several months and two children to convince my wife that she should occasionally let me rock our kids to sleep and/or feed them their bottle before bed. She called it ‘mommy time’ and was rather jealous of sharing.
Best point in article: the last two sentences. Couples that ignore their own relationship imperil/hurt the children. The Mazlow-esque hierarchy of God-Spouse-Children has always seemed very clear to as gospel, but plenty in wards I’ve been in seem to only see God-Children and ‘spouse’ is some sort of necessary evil.
1. I don’t think the article said that getting Mom to step back was more important than getting Dad to step forward.
2. I don’t think the goal is to have fathers _nurture_ more so much as parent more. Disqualifying things fathers do because it is not what you call nurturing is exactly the problem.
3. Here is a recent GC quote on fathers presiding/leadership in the home. It is far more encompassing than what you seem to be taking away from your RS lessons. One hopes, no offense, that thiis is a failing in your listening rather than in how the lessons are taught. Since the manuals are joint with EQ, I know personally that the written material is not so limited as you suggest the RS lessons are.
“You preside at the meal table, at family prayer. You preside at family home evening; and as guided by the Spirit of the Lord, you see that your children are taught correct principles. It is your place to give direction relating to all of family life.
“You give father’s blessings. You take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline. As a leader in your home you plan and sacrifice to achieve the blessing of a unified and happy family. To do all of this requires that you live a family-centered life.”
and here’s a little more:
“As President Joseph F. Smith counseled: “Brethren, there is too little religious devotion, love, and fear of God, in the home; too much worldliness, selfishness, indifference, and lack of reverence in the family, or it never would exist so abundantly on the outside. Then, the home is what needs reforming. Try today, and tomorrow, to make a change in your home.” ”
Family prayer is only the beginning of leadership in the home.
“Sometimes they mention (in RS, I’m sure they mention this more often in EQ or HP) one on one time with the kids, but those are made to sound more like PPIs than real bonding. That isn’t exactly the intimate sort of nurturing we’re talking about here is it?”
It is if you do it right. At least, it is the sort of parenting we are talking about.
“Family prayer is only the beginning of leadership in the home.”
And where does changing diapers fit in?
Ezra Taft Benson — To the Fathers in Israel:
Remember, brethren, love can be nurtured and nourished by little tokens. Flowers on special occasions are wonderful, but so is your willingness to help with the dishes, change diapers, get up with a crying child in the night, and leave the television or the newspaper to help with the dinner. Those are the quiet ways we say “I love you” with our actions. They bring rich dividends for such little effort.
This kind of loving priesthood leadership applies to your children as well as to your wife.
Mothers play an important role as the heart of the home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training, and loving their children.
As the patriarch in your home, you have a serious responsibility to assume leadership in working with your children. You must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can abide. Your place is to give direction to all family life. You should take an active part in establishing family rules and discipline.
About your point #1, I agree. Something I think that it did say is that many fathers are *already* trying to step forward, but are finding barriers in their way, especially disagreements with their wives.
About #2, I don’t think I was disqualifying presiding over FHE and picking who says the prayer, I was brushing them off as inadequate in isolation. Those things are wonderful as long as they are part of larger investment of time and emotion into the father-child relationship. In RS we hear very little about providing space for that relationship.
#3- That is a great talk– directed to fathers. It repeatedly addresses partnership in parenting, and stresses the involvement of the father. Two talks later Sister Beck gave her “Mother Heart” talk that mentions fathers twice and only indirectly, but then goes on to stress that mothering is the most important and influential thing a woman can do: “She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man.”
Again, my point isn’t that the church isn’t encouraging men to step forward. My point is that the church is telling women the sorts of things that make them highly reluctant to ease up and let fathers in.
I agree with Starfoxy that LDS women need to be taught that fathers have a role in child-rearing, but that’s a very tricky message to deliver properly. I think it’s supposed to come from the RS lessons teaching women to respect priesthood leadership.
First, the church DOES make “nurturing” primarily the mother’s domain, and I don’t think it wants them to feel that’s being taken away from them.
Second, language matters. When Starfoxy is talking, she says stuff like “intimate nurturing”. I don’t think you want to apply that to dads. Dads do something different, and if you tell women we’re supposed to “nurture intimately”, they’ll just get frustrated with us because we don’t do it right. Sure, I change diapers, bathe little bodies, read bedtime stories, and yet the way I do it is somehow different than the way my wife does it, and depending on their mood, the kids definitely prefer one of us over the other. Usually if they’re focussed on themselves (eg., sad, frustrated, or sick), they want my wife. Otherwise, they want me.
Moms don’t need to be taught to allow dads to do part of the “nurturing” (= “mothering”). They just need to let dads be involved and “father”.
I think the church is trying to use “priesthood leadership” as the way dads stay involved in the family. Women who accept “priesthood leadership” can’t deny fathers their involvement, even if they do things a little differently.
Presiding = taking a more active part in nurturing, while mothers back off their divine calling = being head of the home/patriarch/giving direction/assuming leadership in the home.
Mother’s have a divine duty to nurture. Fathers have a divine duty to, uh, nurture by overseeing the nurturing. In a relationship of equal partners. Oh yeah, in which he presides. By nurturing. And leading.
It’s easy to avoid trite nitpicking of Proclamation language when we can just have the words mean whatever we want them to mean.
I think the church teaches mothers to mother and fathers to father. There is plenty of flexibility in that and there is plenty of overlapping in that. I don’t think that insisting on parenting equals a certain number of diapers is very helpful.
Each “talk” given on parenting can only focus on a few things. No talk is going to encompass every little thing about parenting.
All I can say is that the church constantly teaches that marriage is very important and that parenting is more important. It tends to teach that you shouldn’t let your marriage suffer because you are too busy parenting. It also says you leave an abusive spouse to save yourself and your kids. The church constantly teaches mothers and fathers to play a more active part in raising their children. It doesn’t give either mothers or fathers a pass. I don’t ever hear the church tell men that having a job means they shouldn’t do diapers or dishes or one on one time or soccer games or homework help or parent teacher conference or whatever else. I hear the church telling both genders it is important to be a mother or a father and to try to do it well and to try to spend time doing it.
I liked Martin’s comment.
Ack! Bad proofreading in the second paragraph in comment #42. I meant to say the churches does NOT teach that parenting is more important than marriage.
Thank you for remembering to mock me a couple of dozen comments later, Brad. Makes me feel right at home.
I’m a fan of Dr. Pruett (I’ve even had lunch with the man) and I don’t think he would ever say that the role of mother isn’t important. That said, he’d also tell you that minimalizing the good an active father adds to a child’s life is no good either. If I remember correctly from the last time I was with him, having an active fathering influence in the preschool years made a child more likely to excel at math, to be more confident, and to be both a greater risk-taker and a risk-mitigator; to be able to tell when a risk wasn’t worth it.
So for me at least, it comes down to the more active both parents are in parenting, the better it is for the child, but to say one is more important than the other is trying to preference one side of the coin over the other.
And Rosalynde, The US Dept. of Justice’s infanticide stats ( http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/children.htm ) show it’s basically evenly divided between biological fathers and biological mothers. Granted, factor non-related male acquaintances of the mother into the equation and it changes, but we’re talking about fathers here.
Additionally, couldn’t the lack of recognition of some cues be understood in terms of the lack of exposure boys are traditionally given to babies through the ages? It’s hard to blame someone for not picking up on a cue if they’ve little experience being around cuegivers. It would be interesting to conduct such research after a generation or two where involved fathering is actively encouraged and or becomes the norm.
Stepfathers and stepmothers also about evenly kill children. Interestingly enough, stepfathers seem to bond quite a bit better with their non-biological children than stepmothers. This is backed up (in papers that I can’t find) from data from the 17th and 18th centuries that show children with stepmothers having significantly lower survival rates than those without. Those evil stepmothers of Disney fame were all too real.
Chad, those statistics don’t show that mothers and fathers kill young children at an equal rate; they just show that the total numbers of homicides are similar (slightly fewer for mothers). When you take into account that a large fraction of children in at-risk populations have been abandoned by their fathers and live only with their mothers (and thus these fathers have no access to the children), we have to infer that custodial fathers kill at a higher rate than custodial mothers.
Furthermore, when you take abandonment as a form of harm, there simply is no question that during the first five years of life, fathers do more harm to infants than mothers. (Of course, some mothers do harm and abandon their children; and when you put abortion into the equation, then (unborn) children are at a major risk of harm from their mothers.)
As for the issue of responsiveness, the studies suggest that mothers are primed for sensitivity to infant cues by hormonal feedback mechanisms; it’s not merely a learned behavioral response. Of course, neural circuitry is somewhat plastic and can be affected by experience, so it is possible that men who have been socialized to care for infants from a young age might show different hormonal responses. I agree that it would be interesting to see that sort of data.
And what am I to do with those numbers? Should I abandon my family to make sure they’re safe? Should you ask your husband to stop coming home for the sake of the children? Refuse to ever let your brothers or father near? I resent being painted as negligent or a danger simply because there are men who have hurt children.
Re 47 – Based on my family history and a family I know, I believe that is true.
If you think the stats Rosalynde cites suggest you should leave your children or that all men are negligent, step away from the computer. Infanticide, outside of abortion, is quite rare. Rosalynde is not calling all fathers out as killers.
Whoa, Chad—clearly my tone was too strong in that last comment. I should have reiterated that, overall, very few fathers kill or harm their children. And we know that, in our present cultural circumstances, at least, having fathers in the picture is a major predictor of good outcomes for kids. Three cheers for fathers! Your kids are extremely lucky to have you in their lives.
Actually, Rosalynde Welch, when you look worldwide, mothers kill younger children, fathers kill older children, but the numbers are about the same. As to the current prevalence of stepfathers over stepmothers, remember that women used to die in childbirth in rather horrific numbers–the fathers would often remarry; lots of kids had stepmothers. The current trend of more stepfathers is a historical anomaly.
I do think moms have to step back and give up control to let dads do more. I’ve seen wives complain that the husband doesn’t do a task much, then watched them criticize how the task is done when the husband does do the task. There’s also the thing that Cosby pointed out where husbands sometimes do a task badly on purpose so they won’t be asked to do it again. But all in all, it’s important for each spouse to be free to do things the way they feel is best, without a lot of micromanagement from the other spouse. And it’s important not to specialize too much, I think. It’s a good thing when both spouses get enough experience that they know how to do things the other typically does.
An example is when my father died, my mom was suddenly forced to learn at age 73 how to do dozens of things that she had not done all her life such as pump gas. None of the things individually were difficult to learn, but being hit with all of them at once, at a time when her brain was older and she was overwhelmed with grief was not good. Her learned helplessness was causing her great difficulty. In the same way, my father didn’t know how to do laundry. He had not the faintest clue. A male coworker once didn’t realize toilets have to be cleaned. I’m serious. His mom did it his whole life until he married, then his wife took over and not only had he never cleaned a toilet, he didn’t even know that job existed. I had a similar epiphany when I moved out of my mom’s house, not realizing that things like scrubbing and wiping down the washer and dryer were necessary because they’d been done for me all my life.
I think also that stay-at-home mothers sometimes don’t have the experience of delegating responsibility as they might have gotten if they worked full time outside the home. They might have learned that you have to give reasonable expectations, and maybe offer some help with methods, if needed, but basically get out of the way and let the person do the work in their own way. You have to trust the person to do things well. If you have no faith in them, they can feel that, and they’ll basically back off and let you take over.
So I agree with the article that mothers and dads should be expected to be involved with their kids but not necessarily in exactly the same way.
OK, I’m calmer now. Stlll, I find it telling that in a thread where the topic is that fathers have a beneficial role in the lives of their children, though different than that of mothers, we veered into the danger dads pose to children.
Mothers needn’t be so defensive about their role. That fathers play a greater role does not diminish the important role mothers play. It’s not a zero sum game, and we do no good to reduce each other’s influence to that of merely an iron hand or a skillet.
For the record, Ardis, I was technically mocking Frank.
That said, since you’ve made clear just how strongly you feel about this sort of thing in blog comments, let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize for the fact that I interpreted the final paragraph of your comment #17 as mocking those who feel differently than you do about Proclamation language.
Brad, in the future try to make your mockery more pointed and less convoluted. I had not the least idea that you were directing it specifically (or technically?) at me.
But thanks for the public apology. I agree that you misinterpreted Ardis, but things like that happen all the time.
That’s my bad, Frank. Reading Ardis in such an incharitable light is a persistent and recurring mistake of mine. She could be talking in some public forum to some person (say, just to throw out a totally random example, to Kristine) and she could be like “I have an alternate opinion” or “while I understand why you think that, you’re overlooking X” but all I hear is “you jerk, you’re totally wrong and only an idiot could possibly make such a stupid claim. Not that you’ll ever be as socially enlightened as I am, but if you were, you’d understand why I spit on you and your ridiculous statements.”
It’s really a problem I should work on, especially since it’s a fairly regular source of embarrassment for me.
Control for time spent with the child, and the effects of gender on things like missing cues and child harm will wash out. Whether you are male or female, the more time you spend with a baby, the more you are able to read cues and the better you become at caring for the child. What a shocker!
On a more speculative note, in my opinion the ways in which women tend to “damage” children is not something we can easily observe because of cultural constraints and the way gender is socially constructed (and btw, to posit the social construction of gender is not to deny its reality). In other words, men are more dangerous to children *by cultural definition*. That’s what these studies about male danger to children really show — that if you take traditional understandings of gender for granted, you can demonstrate that women are less dangerous to kids. But it’s a farce because in undertaking such a study, you can’t operationalize your outcome in a way that is not true by definition!
Oh and if you think Pruett seeks to “minimize and whitewash” male/female differences in parenting, then you seriously misunderstand his work. The main emphasis of his research is that males contribute in unique and important ways to child development. I actually think that, if anything, he even goes a little too far sometimes in generalizing about gender differences.
Once I read some Pruett stuff as part of an elder’s quorum lesson on fatherhood. I was a stay at home dad at the time. But apparently the eq pres. didn’t want to hear all this sissy stuff about the father’s potential as a nurturer. When my lesson was over, we got held up 10 minutes past the end of church for a nice lecture from the eq president on the virtues of manly things such as earning a living wage and protecting your family.