Table of contents:
- In the 21st century, it would seem that no one is surprised by the ideas of gender equality. Both women and men run states, fly into space, and conduct business projects. However, in the sphere of parenting, gender stereotypes are so deeply rooted that they are practically not questioned and critically analyzed
- Myth 1. Fathers are not biologically adapted to caring for babies
- Myth 2. To form a healthy attachment, a child needs contact with the mother
- Myth 3. Girls are prepared for motherhood from childhood
- Myth 4. The main responsibility for the child lies with the mother
- Myth 5. Male upbringing is necessary for a child only after three years
Video: 5 Myths About Fatherhood And Motherhood - Society
2023 Author: Oswald Adamson | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 12:13
In the 21st century, it would seem that no one is surprised by the ideas of gender equality. Both women and men run states, fly into space, and conduct business projects. However, in the sphere of parenting, gender stereotypes are so deeply rooted that they are practically not questioned and critically analyzed
Traditionally, childcare is considered a "woman's business". Indeed, even in European countries where both mothers and fathers have the right to maternity leave, the proportion of fathers who have used this right is on average only 10.1% 1.
In the Nordic countries, the situation is different: there are special “paternal quotas”: paid leave for young children, which can only be used by men. Nevertheless, the gender imbalance persists there too: for example, in Sweden, the share of fathers who used parental leave is 44%, but the total time that men spend on maternity leave is almost three times less than that of women: 27.9% and 72, 1% of the total, respectively 2. In Russia, the situation is completely deplorable: according to 2015 data, only 2% of fathers take parental leave 3.
The apparent unevenness of the contribution to raising a child in the early stages of his life has long-term negative consequences:
- This greatly worsens the position of women in the labor market: when they return to work, they face a prejudiced attitude from the management, they are less likely to receive promotions or invitations to interviews 4.
- Lack of involvement of fathers in caring for babies negatively affects the intellectual and emotional development of children at an older age 5.
- A rigid division of responsibilities between spouses and shifting the lion's share of reproductive labor onto women's shoulders leads to emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depressive disorders in mothers, and also contributes to the breakdown of families 6.
Why is the stereotype “children - women’s business” still so strong? It is strengthened by several myths, which are broadcast in the mass media and even in solid scientific works as if they were truths that cannot be doubted. Let's try to figure them out.
Myth 1. Fathers are not biologically adapted to caring for babies
There is a postulate that women have a "maternal instinct", but fathers have to build relationships with a child exclusively by volitional effort. It is usually passed off as an axiom on the grounds that the female reproductive system is adapted for bearing and feeding children, and male participation is limited to ejaculation leading to conception.
However, researchers insist on a different point of view: parental behavior and attitudes towards babies in humans, like in other primates, is not a biological, but a social construct, and this does not depend on gender 7.
Neither men nor women have an "innate" attachment to a child - it is formed under the influence of social attitudes and their own experience of interacting with children
Moreover, men who are constantly involved in infant care experience the same biochemical and hormonal changes as women 8.
The question of breastfeeding requires a somewhat more detailed analysis. It is he who becomes the decisive factor in the issue of dividing "maternity" leave between parents. Indeed, in the first few months, it is much more convenient for the mother to be at home in order to be able to feed the baby at any time.
However, the nutrition of a newborn may well be provided by modern technologies for preserving breast milk, the transition of both parents to part-time employment, the provision of conditions for feeding at the workplace, etc.
According to Rosstat, 56.6% of children under the age of six months in Russia are artificially fed 9, that is, mothers and fathers can feed them with equal success. But, as we remember, we still have only 2% of male maternity doctors - is it really a matter of biology?
Myth 2. To form a healthy attachment, a child needs contact with the mother
This myth functions in the scientific and parenting communities as a "self-fulfilling prophecy". Its content boils down to the fact that the figure of the mother is central in the psychological development of the child, and the relationship between the baby and the mother has a global impact on his personality in adulthood.
In psychology, there are many well-established formulations that support this myth: "dead mother syndrome", "rejecting mother" and even "schizophrenogenic mother". It is indeed difficult to deny the influence of relationships in the mother-child dyad on the development of the psyche: there are many studies proving their importance in one aspect or another.
However, the picture becomes somewhat different if we trace the causal relationship a little wider. The above statistics show that in the overwhelming majority of cases, it is mothers who take care of young children.
It makes perfect sense that children develop close relationships with the people they see every day and who provide for their physical and emotional needs
This fact is stated by numerous studies, interpreted in favor of the "predisposition" of women to raising babies and leads the authors to the conclusion that "it is mothers who should take care of young children!" The circle is complete. Meanwhile, a study conducted by John Bowlby and his followers show that the primary object of affection can be any adult to a child, constantly communicating with the infant and caregiver 10.
Myth 3. Girls are prepared for motherhood from childhood
There is a fairly widespread belief that women are better at parenting because they prepare themselves to care for babies from childhood. In fact: in toy stores, dolls, strollers and other attributes like tiny bottles and nipples are always in the girls' sections, and the traditional attitude of adults towards girls is often described by the eerie proverb “We gave birth to a nanny, and then a baby sitter”.
Girls are poured into their ears with instructions “Don't sit on the cold - you still have to give birth!”, “Don't smoke, you're a future mother” - and others, and others. On this basis, young fathers often distance themselves from caring for their own children: they say, I don’t know anything and I don’t know how, it’s you women who understand all infant nonsense
Unfortunately, the "preparation" of girls for parenting in our society comes down to one postulate: "Motherhood is your sacred duty and the only possible meaning of life." Sometimes they add something from the series “children are happiness” - however, it is often customary to keep silent about the fact that it is also a lot of difficulties, huge responsibility and round-the-clock hard work.
It is customary to keep silent about the risks associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, postpartum depression - many women have to learn about all this from their own experience, when it is no longer possible to “rewind” the situation.
Learning to care for a newborn also has to be done “on the go”: often a child's own is the first baby a young mother sees in her life. Where do women get the information they need?
Research data provides an answer to this question: 87% of young mothers regularly read literature and online forums devoted to parenting; 92% consult their parents; 94% - with friends and acquaintances with children. Where do men get the same information from? 96% ask questions … to the mothers of their children 11.
Myth 4. The main responsibility for the child lies with the mother
Almost under every message about children who were injured due to an oversight of the father who was with them, there are comments: "Where was the mother looking ?!" Unfortunately, mothers are still responsible for the main burden of parenting, while fathers are given the function of "helping with children."
A man who pays child support after divorce and spends time with a child once a month is considered a good father; if a mother finds herself in the same situation, the mildest thing that sounds in her address is “cuckoo” and “underwife” 12.
Meanwhile, Article 61 of the Family Code of the Russian Federation directly and unequivocally indicates the equality of parental responsibilities for mother and father. In particular, the law obliges both parents to equally “take care of the health, physical, mental, spiritual and moral development of their children” 13.
Statements of doctors that it is the mother, or of the guardianship and guardianship authorities, that the mother, who left the child with their father, is untenable as a parent, should go to the hospital with a sick baby, are illegal and illiterate
Myth 5. Male upbringing is necessary for a child only after three years
Supporters of this idea usually appeal to the experience of some Eastern cultures, where sons were brought up in the “female” half of the house until a certain age, after which they moved to the “male” part and practically did not see their mother and sisters.
In a milder version, fathers complain that children who are too young cannot be taught "real" things: sports, fishing, craft, and that changing diapers or folding towers from cubes is somehow "unmanly".
This stereotype is dangerous for two reasons:
- The traditional notion of masculinity is recognized as dangerous for men themselves: according to the American Psychological Association, such signs of "masculinity" as toughness, belligerence, emotional restraint increase the risk of depression, suicide, self-destructive behavior, etc. 14.
- The less attention the father pays to the child at an early age, the less chances he has to build a trusting and warm relationship with the grown son or daughter 15.
I would like to believe that the double standards imposed by society on parents of different sexes will very soon become the same bad manners as class or racial prejudices. At least now we can be critical of ideas that were considered indisputable until recently. Perhaps for the next generation it will be quite obvious that raising children is a matter equally important for men and women.
- Maternity, paternity and parental leave: Data related to duration and compensation rates in the European Union // Policy Department C: Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs. European Parliament. URL: europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/509999/IPOL_STU(2015)509999_EN.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Dads in Sweden took more paternity leave than ever in 2017 // The Local. 17.01.2018. URL: thelocal.se/20180117/dads-in-sweden-took-more-paternity-leave-in-2017 (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Russian men do not go on maternity leave // Superjob.ru. 24.11.2015. URL: superjob.ru/research/articles/111910/rossijskie-muzhchiny-v-dekret-ne-hodyat/ (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- Borodkin A. What is a “maternity penalty” and how it works // No, this is normal. 2012-25-12. URL: nen.ru/motfine/ (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- Ramchandani PG et al. Do early father – infant interactions predict the onset of externalising behaviors in young children? Findings from a longitudinal cohort study // Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2013. V. 54. No. 1. P. 56–64. URL: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02583.x (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Cooke LP “Doing” gender in context: Household bargaining and risk of divorce in Germany and the United States // American Journal of Sociology. 2006. V. 112. No. 2. P. 442–472. URL: epubs.surrey.ac.uk/2856/2/LPCooke_AJS2006.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Lamb ME et al. Paternal behavior in humans // American zoologist. 1985. P. 883–894. URL: academic.oup.com/icb/article-pdf/25/3/883/384760/25-3-883.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Gordon I. et al. Prolactin, oxytocin, and the development of paternal behavior across the first six months of fatherhood // Hormones and Behavior. 2010. V. 58. No. 3. P. 513–518. URL: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3247300/ (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- Healthcare in Russia. 2017: Statistical collection / Rosstat. M., 2017. URL: gks.ru/free_doc/doc_2017/zdrav17.pdf (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications / Ed. J. Cassidy, PR Shaver - Rough Guides, 2002. URL: people.virginia.edu/~psykliff/pubs/publications/at2.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Mikhailova Ya. Ya., Sivak EV Scientific parenting? What worries parents and what sources of information they use // Education Issues. 2018. no. 2. P. 8–25. URL: vo.hse.ru/data/2018/1151-09-07826268/01%20Mikhaylova.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Blagova D. The story of a woman who left the family, leaving a child // Afisha Daily. 2016-14-11. URL: daily.afisha.ru/relationship/3579-istoriya-zhenschiny-kotoraya-ushla-iz-semi-ostaviv-rebenka/ (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- Family Code of the Russian Federation dated December 29, 1995 No. 223-FZ (as revised on August 3, 2018). - URL: semkod.ru (date of access: 09.02.2019).
- American Psychological Association, Boys and Men Guidelines Group / APA guidelines for psychological practice with boys and men. 2018. URL: apa.org/about/policy/psychological-practice-boys-men-guidelines.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
- Feldman R. Parents' convergence on sharing and marital satisfaction, father involvement, and parent – child relationship at the transition to parenthood // Infant Mental Health Journal: Official Publication of The World Association for Infant Mental Health. 2000. V. 21. No. 3. P. 176-191. URL: pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0a15/49a84af2cbc3f8e1cbc23eff6efb5568d2b0.pdf (date accessed: 09.02.2019).
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