• "Maternal Gatekeeping": Why Moms Shut Dad Out of Child-Rearing

    Moms assess the suitability of their partner to parenthood
  • Pregnant couple

    Photo Source: Pixabay

    A study has found that new moms assess the parenting skills of their soon-to-be-father husbands and how much responsibility they’ll let them have during the last few months of their pregnancy. This practice is coined as “maternal gatekeeping.”


    The research found that new mothers tended to limit the dad’s involvement in child rearing if they find that the dad doesn’t live up to her expectations of him or if she sees that he isn’t confident enough in his own parenting skills.

    Basically, new mothers are looking at their partner’s suitability as a parent, said Dr. Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, co-author of the study and professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University. “New mothers are looking at their partner and thinking, ‘Is he going to be here for the long haul? Does he know what he is doing with children?',” she said.

    Schoppe-Sullivan and her team wanted to find out what characteristics made moms “shut the gate” and limited the dads’ involvement. “If we want to increase fathers’ involvement in child-rearing, we need to know what may be limiting their participation,” she said.

    The study, published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice, involved assessing 182 couples, once during the third trimester and another three months after the baby was born. They also used data from a long-term study, which Schoppe-Sullivan was also involved in, that looked at how working couples adjusted to becoming parents for the first time.

    Results showed that moms were most likely to shut out their partners if:

    • she thought about leaving him during her third trimester because of conflict in their relationship
    • she felt confident in her parenting skills
    • she felt that her partner wasn’t confident in his own parenting skills
    • she felt confident in her parenting skills
    • she had perfectionist expectations from her partner
    • she had psychological troubles like depression or anxiety


    Religious mothers, the researchers were surprised to find, were more likely to encourage their partner’s involvement in child-rearing. Religious teachings about the importance of family and traditional gender roles might be the reason for this, they speculated.


    To Schoppe-Sullivan, the takeaway from this study is that parents should to be aware when they’re pushing their partner away. “Many young couples say that they want to be equal partners when it comes to raising their child, so it’s important to be aware of when you might be closing the gate, for example, criticizing a dad when he does something concerning the baby you don’t approve of.

    “Having an involved dad is really important not just for the baby but for a new mom as well, to help her balance work and family,” she said.

    “Absent fathers (both physically and emotionally) have made many children feel abandoned and orphaned,” says Nomer Bernardino, Ph.D., a pastor and parenting speaker. “The fathers and their kids don’t really know each other, and when such is the case, there is a big room for misunderstanding, miscommunication and tensions.”

    Related story: The 7 Qualities of a Hands-on Dad


    Sources:
    Aug. 5, 2015. "New Moms Eye Partners’ Parenting Abilities". psychcentral.com
    Aug. 7, 2015. "How Moms Judge Dad’s Parenting Skills". yahoo.com

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