social change for single parents

How Single Parenthood Helps Bring Out the Best in Society

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”

–Richard Bach

Global Social Change for Single Parent

Family structures are changing all over the world.  One modern aspect of social change for single parents is the increasing number of single parent households. Current statistics show that in North America, Oceania, and Europe, about one-fifth of children live in single parent households. In the United States, the rate is 27% in the U.K. and New Zealand it stands at 24%. Experts expect these numbers to continue to rise.

One of the reasons for this increase is that the meaning of marriage has changed over the years. With more career opportunities available for women, marriage has become more of an option than the financial necessity it once was. Additionally, attitudes towards both religion and women’s sexuality have changed. For example, it was once common to refer to children born “out of wedlock” as “bastard children”. Today, stigmatizing a child with that label would be almost unthinkable.

Social Change for Single Parents—the Role of Social Stigma

Similarly, although the social stigma once associated with single parenthood still exists, it is not as severe as it was in the past. Unmarried couples and parents living together has become common practice in many countries. For example, in North America, about four in 10 children, or 41%, are born outside of marriage. In Canada, the rate is 27%, and in Mexico, 55%.

An article in the Guardian points out that much of the stigma of single parenthood has been unfairly directed at women and is largely the product of sexual double standards. Women were held singularly responsible for controlling both their own, and their suitors’, sexual urges. Those who failed in this social responsibility were often forced to give their children up for adoption and were shunned by society as “fallen women”.

In recent years, society has begun to shift some of that responsibility to men in the form of DNA testing and child support laws. It is no longer considered socially acceptable for a man to escape supporting his children simply by refusing to marry their mother. Existing economic conditions within individual countries also plays a part in the amount of social stigma associated with single parenthood. Usually, in times of prosperity, the stigma decreases, while it increases in times of economic hardship.

Challenges of Social Change for Single Parents

According to 2012 data, there is an educational gap between children raised in single parent households compared to those raised in two parent households. A standardized test administered by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been given every three years since the year 2000 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The test includes measures the math, science, and reading achievement of 15-year-old students in 28 participating countries.

In almost every country, students living in single-parent households had lower achievement scores than those in two-parent households. In the United States, there was an average difference of 27 points, which is equal to approximately one grade level. However, it was also shown that the presence of books in the home affected those figures. Because the presence of books in the home is a factor, one positive social change for single parents and their children would be an increase in mobile libraries.

Past studies revealed academic disparities between different racial groups, disparities which were later shown to be the result of poverty rather than ethnicity. Similarly, it is impossible to ignore statistics which demonstrate the number of single parent households living in poverty. For example, in the United States, 45% of all female single parent households lived at or below the poverty level, compared to 21% of male single parent households.

The link between poverty and low academic scores is well documented, with some experts believing it to be the most important contributing factor linked to academic failure.

Positive Social Change for Single Parents

Despite the discouraging economic statistics for single parents, there has been a great deal of positive social change for single parents. For example, many single parents are coming together and creating communities which in many ways serve as extended families. These communities, in addition to providing emotional support, also enable people to barter child care and other goods and services that improve the quality of family life, rather than paying for it.

Modern social support systems for single parents also include a number of non-profit organizations that provide education, activities, and valuable social connections to struggling families. As many governments are cutting benefits, single parents are beginning to depend more on one another. The benefits to children are incalculable.

All studies show that the more adult role models and positive emotional support a child receives, the better. While the industrial revolution separated us, the technological revolution is re-connecting us. No matter how much technological progress we make, when it comes to raising happy healthy children, it’s always going to take a village.

Laubenstein-Karen-U.S.-Fish-and-Wildlife-Service-CC2.0
Laubenstein Karen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CC2.0

January 4,2016  |

social change for fathers

How Social Change For Fathers Has An Unshakable Impact On Family Life

A Time of Social Change for Fathers

A stay-at-home father is defined as a father who is the primary caregiver of his children under the age of 18. According to statistics, the number of stay-at-home fathers has risen significantly in the last decade. According to the U.S. Census, 32% of married fathers provide regular care for their children, compared to 26% in 2002. Regular care is defined as a consistent arrangement of at least one day per week. A 2014 Pew Research study estimates the number of stay-at-home fathers in the U.S. at 2 million, double the number reported in 1989. The criteria was based on men aged 18-69 who living with their children who were not employed for pay in the prior year.

According to research, stay-at-home fathers are less likely to have a high school diploma than working fathers. Equally disturbing, 47% of them live at the poverty level, compared to only 8% for working fathers. The number of stay-at-home mothers living at the poverty level is 34%, since many have working spouses. Stay-at-home fathers are also more likely to be disabled than stay-at-home mothers, with statistics at 50% for women and 68% for men.

And so, accurate statistics regarding fathers who choose to stay at home are difficult to obtain because many include unemployed or disabled fathers for whom providing childcare may be a temporary economic necessity rather than a choice. Conversely, the statistics may not count men who were employed full-time outside the home for a portion of the previous year. They also don’t account for fathers who work part time as well as being their children’s primary caregivers.

The Effects of Social Change for Fathers

In one article in which several families with stay-at-home dads were interviewed, some men reported feelings of inferiority, loss of self-esteem, self-respect. This demonstrates the necessity for increasing social awareness of the extreme importance of the task of child-rearing. Stephanie Coontz, a member of the Council on Contemporary Families, believes the number of stay-at-home fathers is much higher than official statistics indicate.

She believes that this growing trend of social change for fathers is due in part to the fact that more women are earning college degrees, and as a result, 28% of women earn more than their husbands. She also believes that men feel

“not just pressure, but the desire to be more involved in family life and child care and housework and cooking. And at the same time, all of the polls are showing that women are now just as likely as men to say that they want to have challenging careers.”

She adds that one of the ways men are being affected is that they are now experiencing

“higher levels of work-family conflict than women are.”

The Slow Rate of Social Change for Fathers

The concept of stay-at-home fathers is still a controversial one. Society has been slow to change the long-held view that women are more suited for caring for children. For example, in a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, 51% of people surveyed believed that children benefit from their mothers remaining at home. However, only 8% believed children would benefit from their fathers remaining at home to care for them.

One example of society’s resistance to social change for fathers is a 2007 article that reported the results of a study of 6000 families with stay-at-home fathers. The Bristol project, funded by the Government’s Economic and Social Research Council, concluded that boys cared for by their fathers were less prepared for education when they started school. However, at the time of the study, potentially costly policies allowing fathers 26 weeks of paid paternity leave were expected to be approved and implemented.

Expert Opinions on Social Change for Fathers

Other experts, citing other studies, suggest the opposite. Psychologist Ross Parke has conducted many studies on fatherhood, including a study of 390 families in which parents described how they played with their children. He concluded that father’s play was

“characterized by arousal, excitement, and unpredictability”,

whereas mother’s was

“more modulated and less arousing”.

In his opinion, fathers teach their children how to use their bodies and regulate their emotions. Psychologist Daniel Paquette asserts that fathers’ distinct contributions to parenting include helping children be open to the world, take risks, and stand up for themselves.

Statistics also show that boys with quality relationships with their fathers are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior, while girls are more likely to avoid teen-aged pregnancy. A lower incidence of depression is reported by all teens that have a consistent relationship with their fathers, regardless of gender. Rather than research discouraging fathers from staying home with their children, it should be used to demonstrate the necessity for more parenting education—and experience.

Continued social change for fathers will ultimately result in greater mutual understanding and respect between the sexes. It may just result in a greater variety of more flexible and fulfilling roles for everyone, too.

social change for fathers

December 21,2015  |

family life and adoption

Family Life and Adoption: Humanity’s Capacity for Care

For many couples unable to have children, and increasingly, couples who choose to adopt rather than, or in addition, having children of their own, experience the joys of parenthood. Increasingly, single people are also choosing family life and adoption rather than foregoing parenthood because they haven’t found a suitable partner. Adoption also benefits children by providing them with the stable loving environment that young, economically challenged, or inexperienced birth parents are unable to provide.

According to the most recent statistics, global child adoption rates have declined significantly in the past decade, from 22,991 in 1994 to 7092 in 2013. When most people think of adoption, they picture newborn infants, but surprisingly, children under one year of age represented only 541 of adoptions, with the greatest percentage of adopted children, at 2,682, being children aged 1-2 years old, followed by children aged 5-12 at 2,031. Of the children adopted in 2013, 54.6% were female and 45.4% were male.

Family Life and Adoption: A Global Perspective

The countries in which the most adoptions occurred in 2013 were China, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and South Korea. While it may appear that the need may be greatest in those countries, statistics often don’t tell the whole story. For example, in 2011, of the 423,000 children in the U.S. without a permanent family, only 115,000 were eligible for adoption. This is partly the result of family life and adoption laws that grant birth parents suffering from addiction the opportunity to obtain treatment before severing their parental rights.

According to a 2009 U.N. report, 20 countries still did not have legal procedures in place for the adoption of children. Each country’s laws, restrictions and requirements are different. For example, at the time of the report, single people were only allowed to adopt in 15 countries.
 As late as the 19th century, many adoptions were for the benefit of adults rather than children. Common reasons for adoption included preserving inheritances, the continuation of family names, and expanding political power and influence by forging family alliances. It was only in the late 19th century that the welfare of children began to become the primary focus of adoption.

Questions, Benefits and Challenges Surrounding Family Life and Adoption

One site addresses many of the questions as well as myths surrounding adoption. One of those questions is whether it is possible for a parent to love an adoptive child as much as a biological one. If we spend time as well as money on that which we love, the fact that almost 75% of adopted children are read or sung to every day answers that question with a resounding yes.

The financial costs of adopting a child in the U.S. range from $5000 to $40,000, depending upon the type of agency and whether it is an inter-country adoption.

There are many benefits of adopting a child, for parents, children, and even birth mothers. One of the clearest benefits to the child is knowing they were wanted. Unlike pregnancies, an unplanned family life and adoption doesn’t exist.
Current adoption trends are also less traumatic for birth mothers than in the past, when they were not given any information about the adoptive parents and often never saw the child again. Today, open adoptions in which birth mothers continue to play a limited role in the child’s life are becoming far more common. In fact, currently, 67 percent of private adoptions in the U.S. are open to varying degrees according to agreements reached by the birth mother and the adoptive parents.
There are also some unique challenges associated with family life and adoption. Several studies conducted with adoptive parents revealed that many of those challenges are dependent upon the age of the child when the adoption took place. Older children often face psychological concerns such as abandonment issues and attachment disorders. The degree of psychological counseling necessary to successfully address these issues can also depend to a large extent on the number of moves the child experienced before being adopted. Shockingly, some children have experienced as many as 58 moves. Older adopted children may also experience more difficulty during social transitions, such as attending a new school.
However, there are not many difficulties associated with family life and adoption that can’t be overcome with love and commitment, two things that adoptive parents have in abundance. There is no other explanation for the existence of so many adopted people who went on to become successful.
A few of the most famous and successful people who began life as an adopted child include inventor and business mogul Steve Jobs, singers and musicians Faith Hill and John Lennon, and former U.S. President Gerald Ford.
family life and adoption
Mother Berthe Holding Her Child, Mary Cassatt, 1889 CC by 4.0

December 2,2015  |

mixed family life

Intercultural Marriages: One of the Keys to a Better Future?

The Increasing Social Acceptance of Mixed Family Life

Mixed, or interracial marriages have only been legal in all U.S. states since the 1967 Supreme Court decision that ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, although many states chose to legalize it earlier. Anti-miscegenation laws both defined racial identity and enforced the racial hierarchy. After its legalization, interracial marriages increased from 2% in 1970 to 7% by 2005 and 8.4% by 2010. 15% of all new marriages in 2010 were interracial.
Statistics show that whites have the lowest percentage of interracial marriages, at 9.4%, compared to that of Asians and Hispanics at 25%, and blacks at 17.1%.
This increase in interracial marriage isn’t confined to the U.S. but is increasing globally as well. In 2011, 4.6% of all Canadian civil unions were interracial ones, compared to 3.9% in 2006 and 2.6% in 1991.
Of all the recorded marriages in Australia in 2009, approximately 42% one of the partner was born in a country other than Australia. In 2005, Korea reported a 21.6% increase in mixed marriages from the previous year. In the U.K., in 2011, 10% of people were reported as having a mixed family life, up from just 2% in 2001.

Historical Reasons for Mixed Family Life

Today, most interracial marriages are freely chosen, but that hasn’t always been the case. Many interracial marriages throughout history have been the result of slavery or economic hardships that prompted people to immigrate to other countries. For example, in 1891 in British Guiana, the ratio of Indian men to Indian women was 100:63 and the ratio of Chinese men to Chinese women was 100:43.
In many cases, racial intermarriage was the result of a shortage of women of their own culture. In San Luis Potosí Mexico, 3.45% of the population tested were found to possess O-M175 which is a common genetic marker among Chinese, East Asian, Southeast Asian and Central Asian.
Interracial marriages have also been used by rulers throughout history to expand their land holdings. For example, a story called “The Seven Beauties” written in Persian in 1196 describes a prince marrying seven foreign princesses from different racial cultures. They included Byzantine, Chinese, Indian, Khwarezmian, Tartar and Slavic. Interracial marriage has also been used to ease cultural transitions during times of rapid expansion.
During the Chinese Ming Dynasty in 1368, in order to reduce violence that resulted from a clash of cultures as the country expanded, the Ming administration enforced a policy requiring all West and Central Asian males to intermarry with native Chinese females. However, this method of assimilation is not always successful. The Hui people, descendants of those subjected to that policy, rebelled against the government and tried to create an independent state in the 19th century.

Some Common Challenges of Mixed Family Life

One of the challenges of intercultural families face are differences in ideology, which includes religion and other cultural differences. Even wedding traditions differ from culture to culture, as well as how marriage is viewed. One culture may have a very different tradition of religious worship than another.
The same is true of child rearing practices. Disagreements over methods of discipline arise even in families with parents of similar backgrounds. Couples in mixed marriages must contend with learning and understanding the belief systems of their partners. Luckily, with the increase in mixed family life, there has also been an increase in the number of books written that address many of the issues they face. Some experts recommend using a list of cultural questions during the dating process to achieve a higher level of understanding. Depending upon where they live, many interracial couples also report having to deal with a degree of racism, which can also have an adverse effect on mixed family life.

The Many Benefits of Mixed Family Life

One of the advantages of an intercultural marriage is learning about other cultures. The ability to incorporate many of the best aspects of two different cultures enriches the life experience of the whole family. There are also some biological and genetic benefits in that the risks for some diseases and physical conditions are higher in some races, and those risks are reduced in children born into interracial marriages.
Finally, as a result of exposure to different cultural traditions and belief systems, individuals tend to become more tolerant of the cultural differences of others. That means that intercultural families have the potential not to just increase understanding and tolerance within individual families, but within entire societies as well. Modern technology has connected the global human community to an extent never before possible. It’s possible that with the increasing number of people serving as modern pioneers of freely chosen mixed family life, racism may one day become as extinct as the dinosaur.
 mixed family life

November 23,2015  |

bonobo animal mother

Sisterhood Is Powerful: The Bonobo Animal Mother

Human mothers could learn a few things from a bonobo animal mother. One of the most important parenting skills of the bonobo animal mother is mastering group dynamics. In addition to being smaller than their cousins, the chimpanzee, one of the distinguishing features of the bonobo is their matriarchal society. Despite being smaller than the males, through the power of sisterhood, female bonobos enjoy superior social status. Bonding together, they present a united front in support of the alpha female.

One of the bonding mechanisms of peaceful bonobo society is sexuality, which is utilized for many purposes other than reproduction. In fact, sexual activity between females is common, and serves a variety of purposes in addition to creating strong bonds. Bonobos are non-monogamous, and rather sexuality being a form of exclusive commitment, it is instead a form of social diplomacy. It may be one of the reasons that rank is less important in bonobo society than in those of other primates.

Sex among bonobos serves many of the same purposes that it does for humans. Sexual behavior is engaged in to de-escalate aggression, express excitement, or even as a form of greeting. Whatever the reason, the result is usually an increase in sharing and compassion. These beneficial effects of sexuality have been described by sex therapist Dr. Susan Block in her book “The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace Through Pleasure”.

Similarities and Differences Between the Human Mother and the Bonobo Animal Mother

Motherhood has its privileges, and as the sole guardians of future generations, one of those privileges is control over the food supply. Even though bonobo society is a relatively peaceful and harmonious one, bonobo animal mother is a fierce defender. Banding together, the females will attack any male bonobo that poses a threat to the resources necessary to care for their young. They have even been known to bite off fingers and toes.

Males are afforded social status only through the acceptance and consent of the alpha female. The rank of the male is dependent upon the rank of his mother, the sons of alpha mothers enjoying the highest rank among the males. Child-bearing age for the bonobo animal mother begins between 13 and 14 years of age. Unlike human mothers, they only give birth every five to six years. During those five years, the bonobo animal mother carries and nurses her offspring.

Our Genetic Link to the Development of Empathy

Genetically, humans have more in common with the bonobo than most people realize. In fact, humans share 98.7% of their DNA with bonobos. Human lineage diverged from that of chimpanzees and bonobos over five million years ago. Chimpanzees and bonobos diverged only two million years ago, so they still share 99.6% of the same genomes. Unfortunately, the Bonobo, which live along the Congo River, have become an endangered species. In order to preserve them, and everything we can still learn about ourselves through them, an animal sanctuary was created in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There, researchers Zanna Clay and Frans de Waal of Emory University were able to further study study their social behavior. Their focus was on the emotional development of bonobos as expressed by consolatory behavior after experiencing distress during a negative social interaction. The results of their study demonstrated many developmental similarities between bonobos and human children. One of those similarities was the importance of the relationship between mothering and the development of empathy for others.
It was found that orphaned bonobos cared for by the animal sanctuary displayed less empathy and conciliatory behavior than those cared for by their mothers. As with humans, conciliatory behavior includes affectionate touching upon meeting after having distanced as the result of an accidental injury during horseplay or a dispute. Those cared for by their mothers were able to regulate their emotions more effectively, displaying conciliatory behavior sooner than the orphaned bonobos. In human terms, they were less likely to hold a grudge after having been offended or injured.
Empathy and conciliatory behavior is even more important for humans, which experience sibling rivalry as well as social competition for resources. Humans have also developed dangerously sophisticated weaponry with which to resolve their disputes. All parents would do well to foster, and expand, the capacity for empathy found in bonobo society, or we too may one day become an endangered species.
bonobo animal mother

November 11,2015  |

Different-Family-Life

It’s a Different Family Life Than Your Mother’s – The Changing Composition of Families

“I wanted to open a window into the lives of new-tradition families, evaluate their mindsets, and depict that just because a family appears “untraditional” does not mean it is inauthentic, or without love and happiness. I wanted to give legitimacy to all of the decisions being made today, to say yes, you can take a risk and make a happy family, too. Different does not have to mean tragic; it can simply mean real, authentic and sui generis.”

–Rebecca Walker

Choosing and Building a Different Family Life

Feminist author Rebecca Walker is no stranger to controversy. Named as one of America’s 50 future leaders by Time magazine in 1994, she also has personal experience with a different family life than most. The child of an inter-racial marriage between esteemed African American author Alice Walker and Jewish attorney Mel Leventhal, she is singularly qualified to comment on the potential benefits of deviating from the norm. Her own forms of different family life include raising a stepson with a female partner as well as having a son of her own with her current male partner, Buddhist Choyin Rangdrol.

Even the title of her book, “One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk about Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, House Husbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love, doesn’t fit within the usual parameters. It used to be that only people wealthy enough to escape the potential social and economic consequences of nonconformity who could experiment with alternative lifestyles. However, with the new focus on the destructive effects of bullying, many have come to realize that society itself can also become a bully.

For example, for many years, one of the more humane reasons people claimed to be against interracial marriages was that the children of interracial couples would be bullied in school. The same was said of the children of same-sex couples. People are now much less willing to allow bullies the power to create and enforce social policies based on fear of their potentially violent reactions. The number of mixed marriages in the U.S. has risen steadily since 1967, when miscegenation laws were repealed. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, approximately 15% of all new marriages were interracial, more than double the 6.7% in 1980.

House Husbandry—When Role Reversal Creates a Different Family Life

Many financially successful men throughout history have stated that they could have never achieved that success without the supportive roles played by their wives. The same seems to be true of successful women. In fact, 30% of the 187 participants at one of Fortune’s recent Most Powerful Women in Business summits had househusbands. The increase in the number of househusbands has resulted in an increase of social acknowledgement of the difficulty and importance of home-making. While men were once ridiculed and stigmatized for playing what was viewed as a less important supportive role, stay-at-home fathers are helping to change that.

Polyamory: A Different Family Life With More Than One Partner

Polyamory is still far less socially accepted than other kinds of different family life. People often imagine sex triangles in which children are exposed to inappropriate behavior. However, according to many people who have written about their polyamorous relationships, there is a much larger focus on communication than on sex. There has already been some research on the effects of polyamorous relationships on children.

According to two studies, potential benefits to children include more individual time with an adult and the opportunity to develop more interests. More research is currently being conducted. Because monogamy, like heterosexuality, is the societal default, there are as many myths surrounding polyamory as there once were surrounding homosexuality. Now that societal defaults are being challenged, more people, and social scientists, are investigating other types of relationships as well.

Single Motherhood—Another Different Family Life

According to some recent statistics, in the U.S., the U.K. and New Zealand, approximately 25% of children live in single parent households. Most of the time, that single parent is the mother. In the U.S. in 2002, only 15.6% of fathers were primary custodial parents. 31.2% of custodial mothers had never been married, while 43.7% were divorced. Single motherhood is chosen by some, but not by the majority. One of the most difficult aspects of single motherhood is having only a single income. It is estimated that today, up to 40% of single mothers in the U.S. live in poverty.

Other challenges include balancing parenting with a career and enlisting help when necessary. Despite the challenges, single motherhood also has benefits. Marriages require a lot of time and effort, and that time and effort is well spent by single mothers providing a higher level of care for themselves and their children. Greater consistency is also possible when there aren’t two parents with different parenting styles, and children are never exposed to heated arguments.

Whether you’re a single, married, adoptive, interracial or polyamorous mother, the rewards of parenting are the same. Experiencing the wonder of the world through the eyes of a child and the special bond created by being needed transcends all else.

Different-Family-Life

November 6,2015  |

instinctive mothers

Instinctive Mothers : Are They Really Better? Overcoming the Social Stigma of Choice

Does instinctive motherhood or instinctive mothers actually exist?

Instinct has been defined as a behavior that is irresistible, automatic, and triggered by something in the environment. Further, it occurs at a particular developmental stage in all individuals of a species, requires no training, and can’t be modified. Clearly, motherhood is much more than just instinctive. If mothers believed it required no training, child care experts and parenting books wouldn’t exist. While there may be aspects of motherhood which are instinctual, many women resist becoming mothers.

For centuries women, however ineffectively, have utilized family planning methods. According to ancient records, those methods have included spermicide in the form of a lemon half and herbally induced abortions. Since contraceptives were invented and have become widely available, women now have the luxury of choosing not only when, but if, they want to have a child. However, women who choose not to have children are often stigmatized, and even labelled with some pretty insulting adjectives.

Manifestations of Social Stigma—Name-calling and Guilt

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed are among those adjectives. It’s also the title of a book, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed“, of essays by 16 different writers, both male and female, about choosing not to become a parent. It uses humor to counter the societal accusations of selfishness often directed towards women who choose something other than motherhood for personal fulfillment. Although some mixed reviews exist on the book, they also attempt to dispel some of the myths surrounding motherhood, such as that women have a biological need to reproduce and that nothing else in life is as meaningful as having children.

Beyond the concept of the instinctive mother, motherhood is both a social expectation and a familial one. Women are often pressured by parents who are anxious to become grandparents, or siblings who want to become aunts and uncles, to become mothers. This pressure can be even more difficult to resist than a biological drive.

Biology and Choice

Today, many psychologists now believe that rather than all women being born instinctive mothers, their desire to be mothers may be a response to their social circumstances. For example, contact with babies alters hormone levels. Caring for younger siblings or babysitting for neighbors may serve as an environmental trigger. A host of other things, such as constant physical safety and material security can also serve as such triggers. The quality of the relationship with her own mother may also help determine a woman’s level of desire to become a mother.

Evidence is mounting that what was once believed to be an instinctive mother is actually motherhood as the result of a conscious choice. Further evidence shows that the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is not to choose motherhood. According to a recent article, in the 70’s only one in ten women remained childless throughout their lives. By 2010 that number had doubled to one in five. Among college educated women, it was one in four.

Reasons More Women Aren’t Choosing Motherhood

Aside from the availability of more effective birth control methods, one of the most compelling reasons more women are choosing not to become mothers is that there just isn’t enough social support. Rising costs have resulted in most families requiring a second income. That means that most mothers also have a paid job. This industrial economic shift took place before any supportive social systems were developed and put into place to accommodate the new parenting realities associated with industrialized society. The instinctive mother is becoming replaced by the adaptive mother.

One of those realities is that the important and time-consuming activities associated with the vocation of motherhood are unpaid. While they didn’t receive a wage, stay-at-home mothers did receive room and board in exchange for homemaking and child care.

Increasingly difficult economic conditions have resulted in women having to forego not just luxuries to stay at home with their children, but necessities. One of the environmental stimuli that triggers the hormonal element of the instinctive mother, economic security, is now often absent.

Some Famous Women Removing the Stigma of Childlessness

Popular actress Helen Mirren was once quoted as saying

“I have no maternal instinct whatsoever”

and is among those who have spoken openly about the stigma women who choose not to have children still face. For example, Julia Gillard, the prime minister of Australia was described as “barren” in the press. Such a word is pejorative in nature and conveys a sense of physical inadequacy as well as dry lifelessness.

Whether male political figures are fathers is rarely even discussed. Other women under the constant eye of public scrutiny who have chosen not to have children include Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, and talk show host, author, and actress Oprah Winfrey.

Motherhood was once one of the only ways that women could contribute to society in a meaningful way. Now that nearly every profession has opened to them, women have a number of ways to contribute their talents and abilities to the wider world.

Motherhood is an admirable vocation, and enriches the world with children, their laughter, and their new perspectives and ideas. Society must do more to support instinctive mothers who pass on the best our generation has to offer to the next. However, it must also so more to support those women who choose to become not mothers, but role models in the form of living examples of the power of choice.

instinctive mother
Breton Brother and Sister, William Bouguereau, 1871, Credit Line Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Bequest of Cathari

November 4,2015  |

Authoritative-parenting

Authoritative Parenting —Please Do As I Ask, This Is Why I’m Asking..

“They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative”.

Diane Baumrind, who was the first to define the authoritative parenting style, identified three distinct parenting styles. The styles were authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Later, a fourth, negligent parenting, was added to acknowledge that unfortunate reality. Although her ideas were introduced in the 1960’s, they remain relevant today.

Characteristics of Authoritative Parenting

According to Baumrind, authoritative parents are characterized by their emphasis on setting high standards while being responsive and nurturing.  Parental respect of their children as rational human beings on a journey towards eventual independence is also an important distinguishing feature.

One of the primary goals of any style of parenting is to achieve a balance between freedom and responsibility. Authoritative parents encourage verbal reasoning and even debate, set clear standards of good behavior and explain the consequences of bad behavior. They are also more likely to use a system of rewards, such as praise, for good behavior, than use punishments such as shaming or withdrawal of affection for misbehavior. This system of behavior management based on explaining not just the rules, but the reasons for them and the consequences for breaking them, has been called “inductive discipline”.

One comprehensive guide Authoritative parenting, written by Robert E. Larzelere received mixed reviews as being overly academic, but inspired other parenting books. Some of those books use the term “mindful discipline” , rather than “inductive discipline”, but both are similar and serve as the foundation of authoritative parenting.

All styles of parenting differ according to the country and culture in which they are practiced. For instance, a 1996 study that included parents from four different countries including China and Russia found that parents that would otherwise be considered authoritative in style didn’t consider their children’s input when making plans for the family. Otherwise authoritative Chinese parents also did not encourage their children to voice opinions that were not in agreement with their own. Despite some cultural differences, there was one consistent factor among all authoritative parents in all four countries. They all reasoned with their children.

Benefits and Difficulties of Authoritative Parenting

Evidence suggests that the process of inductive discipline used in authoritative parenting helps children develop empathy, resulting in their becoming more kind and helpful. It is also believed that it provides them with moral reasoning skills. Children with authoritative parents were shown to be more popular with, yet less easily influenced by, their peers.

Another positive aspect of this parenting style is that children experience a sense of security in knowing what is expected of them, even if those expectations are somewhat high. Feeling free to voice their opinions and ask questions helps them develop the negotiating skills that adulthood often requires, especially within the middle class. Parents basing their expectations on the age and abilities of the child results in less likelihood of failure and a greater sense of confidence and mastery. Responsibilities are added incrementally when mastery of the individual skills required to assume them have been acquired. Finally, a benefit for the parents is that their children will be more likely to obey them out of respect than out of fear.

One of the difficulties of this parenting style is that it can be time-consuming. In households with two working parents, finding the time to explain the potential long-term benefits of having a tidy room can be extremely challenging. Some children are more headstrong than others, so maintaining the goal of having children cooperate voluntarily rather than merely following orders can sometimes require an almost superhuman level of patience. Finally, the rules require frequent modification to accommodate changes in the children’s ages and abilities.

Although many experts have conducted studies that conclude that Authoritative parenting results in a number of positive outcomes, establishing the right balance of nurturing and discipline can be difficult. It can be even more difficult to maintain, since both children and adults continue to grow and needs continue to change.

Despite the difficulties, it seems that that consensus is that the rewards of contributing to raising thoughtful, confident, kind and helpful human beings is well worth the extra effort.

Authoritative-parenting

October 2,2015  |

parenting styles

The Beginner’s Guide of Parenting Styles and Choosing One’s Influences

Even though there are potentially as many parental styles as there are parents, the societies in which we live exert such great influence, or counter-influence, that several parenting styles have been identified and described by experts.

One of the psychologists to first identify four distinctly different parental styles was Diana Baumrind. In the 1960’s she conducted a study of more than 100 children of pre-school age. Her methodology included naturalistic observation, and parent interviews. The results of the study enabled her to identify four of the most important aspects of parenting, which are discipline, nurturing, communication, and expectations. Using this criteria, as well as measuring the degree of parental demandingness and level of responsiveness to the child’s needs, Baumrind found that most parents demonstrated one of three parental styles.

Authoritarian Parenting Styles

The first of those styles is the authoritarian style, which she characterized as having high parental demandingness with low responsiveness to the child’s needs. This is manifested in harsh rigidity and in cases in which it is taken to the extreme, can become abusive.

Permissive Parenting Styles

The second is the permissive style, in which parents display a low level of demandingness and high responsiveness. In this style, rules are often inconsistently enforced, which can result in confusion and a lack of a sense of security as well as self-discipline.

Authoritative  Parenting Styles

The third is the authoritative style, which combines high demandingness with high responsiveness, and in which rules are firm yet not so rigid that there is no room for exceptions based on circumstances.

In the 1990’s, sociologist Annette Lareau and graduate students conducted a study of 88 families from various racial and economic backgrounds. She went on to conduct more in-depth observations of 12 of those families. The results of those observations inspired her 2003 book, “Unequal Childhoods“, which was updated in 2013. Her findings reveal that middle-class families have different parental styles than poor working-class families, regardless of race.

Parenting Styles and Class

Middle and upper middle class parents are more likely to adopt what she calls a Concerted cultivation style of parenting, while working class parents adopt “natural growth” parenting styles. Concerted cultivation is characterized by high parental expectations and involvement, as well as the purposeful development of talents and social skills. Communication is geared towards teaching children negotiation skills.

“Natural growth parenting” is characterized by less structured time and activities and a lower degree of parental involvement. In this style, communication is geared towards the goal of obedience rather than developing negotiation skills. Lareau contends that concerted cultivation creates and maintains the socioeconomic advantage of the middle class. Conversely, she asserts that natural growth parenting, largely the result of a lack of economic resources, serves to perpetuate economic disadvantage.

Parenting Styles and Attachment

A number of other parenting styles have been identified in the interim between the 60’s and the 90’s. For example, Attachment parenting” is characterized by measuring the success of the parent-child bond. According to this theory, there are four types of attachment:

  • secure,
  • insecure-avoidant,
  • insecure-resistant, and
  • disorganized.

Nurturant parenting” stresses allowing children to explore within a protected environment. This style would fall under Baumrind’s “authoritative” style, in which behavior is modeled by example.

Slow parenting is one of the parental styles that encourages less organization of children’s lives in favor of allowing them to enjoy childhood while exploring the world at their own pace. Developing the child’s decision-making abilities based on personal preferences and values rather than peer pressure is stressed in this parental style. Electronics are replaced with simpler toys to encourage the development of creativity and imagination.

Because of the increase in mental illness associated with political and economic inequalities resulting in stressful living conditions , several types of dysfunctional parenting have also been identified. Most of these fall under the umbrella of “Toxic parenting”. Despite their best intentions, parents often either repeat negative patterns from their own childhood, or attempt to over-compensate for them.

“Overparenting” is an example of one potential type of over-compensation. It has been identified, using terms such as “helicopter parent ” to describe parents that hover over their children to the extent that it interferes with their ability to act independently or deal with challenges on their own. Modern communication technology has only increased parents’ ability to monitor their childrens’ emails and activities.

Narcissistic parenting often involves parents competing with one another through their children. While parents can take pride in their children’s achievements, the danger lies in replacing unconditional love with performance-based acceptance. Narcissistic parents, who come to believe that the child exists for their benefit, are often threatened by their child’s growing independence. That can result in an unhealthy attachment.

Experts agree that the damage caused by toxic parenting, including reduced self-esteem, is often unconsciously passed on to the next generation. In this beautiful yet imperfect world, it’s doubtful that anyone alive has escaped at least some form of parental toxicity.

The good news is that through the equalizing magic of the internet, not even the most economically deprived parent must remain unconscious. More than in any previous generation, the support we need as parents is often right at our fingertips.

Head over to the article The Changing Definitions and Understanding of Motherhood that digs out how Motherhood was influenced by Politics or Economics.

parenting styles

September 25,2015  |

educational psychologists

Educational Psychologists On Why Motherhood Is More Defined by Psychology than Biology

Educational psychologists and child psychiatrists explaining motherhood

Biologists have often explained the behavior of mothers from a biological viewpoint. There is also a psychological school of thought and a range of educational psychologists and child psychiatrists that attempts to explain mothers’ behaviors.

For example, mothers are the primary caretakers of children, yet there are differences between boys and girls in their reactions to mothers. Girls find their own identities through a process of merging and identifying with their mothers, while boys separate themselves from mothers to find their identities. Some educational psychologists and child psychiatrists believed that the absence of fathers in the home due to the division of labor resulted in a number of psychological conflicts.

Helene Deutsch, an Austrian-American psychoanalyst

Helene Deutsch, colleague of Sigmund Freud, saw motherhood as a psychological phenomenon rather than a biological one. She was the first psychoanalyst to specialize in women. Deutsch believed that it was a child’s psychological reactions to biological realities that determined behavior.

“The child will undergo biological changes and therefore his behavior will change. However it is not this biological change that will change the behavior of the child in a direct and mechanical way. It is much more how he sees himself and construes this biological change in his mind that will determine his behavior.”

She believed that the same principle applies to young mothers, and that the way they view themselves determines how they behave as mothers. Other factors which determine a woman’s interpretation of herself as a mother are her own personality, her life situation, and the attitude toward childbearing of the society in which she lives. In her own words:

“Motherliness in women is not the automatic product of female biological processes. Some women are motherly without ever being pregnant, while others, who have borne children, are not motherly.”

One poignant example is the child woman, pregnant with an unwanted child, in whose mind the fetus is not a beloved being, but rather, perceived as a parasite.

In her work, The Psychology of Women, Deutsch discusses the phenomenon of feminine masochism in connection with her attachment to, and possible identification with, her father. She introduced the concept of the “as-if” personality, in which women, as the result of patriarchal repression, learn to act as if they are in fact the social ideal they are told they should be.

She addressed women’s struggles for education and independence as well as the ambivalence of women toward motherhood that results from their sexual and maternal feminine identities being split by society. Unlike other educational psychologists and child psychiatrists of the time, she believed that a healthy mother/daughter relationship, or a surrogate one, was important for a woman to experience a healthy pregnancy.

She was inspired by the powerful examples of socialist leaders Rosa Luxemburg and Angelica Blabanoff, and became one of the first women to join the Vienna Psychological Society. She went on to become the first woman to serve as head of the women’s section of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Training Institute from 1924 to 1933. Much of her work addressed the issue of the conflict between motherhood and eroticism.

Chodorow: Better care-givers but not for biological reasons

The concept of mothers as superior caregivers can be explained as the result of psychological responses to the division of labor and organization of production. Nancy Chodorow, an American sociologist and psychoanalyst was one of the first to offer a different explanation than the biological one as to why mothers are considered better care-givers. Chodorow criticized sex-role socialization and believed that the differences between the sexes could be altered, but only on a social, rather than an individual, level.

Driven by industrialization, within the span of a very short time, women were assigned the role of home and family chores. Chodorow believed that only by changing the organization of production can rigid sex roles based on the economic superiority of men be changed within society.

“The sexual division of labor and women’s responsibility for child care are linked to and generate male dominance. Psychologists have demonstrated unequivocally that the very fact of being mothered by a woman generates in men conflicts over masculinity, and a psychology of male dominance, and a need to be superior to women.”

One of the ten most influential sociology books of the past quarter

Her influential book, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender, published in 1978, and revised in 1999, was chosen as one of the ten most influential books of the past quarter century by Contemporary Sociology. She believes that because girls are less valued, they envy and seek the privilege that boys are afforded. They solve the envy of male privilege by transforming it into heterosexual desire. This process has the effect of creating a form of sibling rivalry with both male children and mothers as girls compete to become the idealized image of the mother created by society.

According to Chodorow,

“motherhood is influenced more by one’s personal psychology, family and culture rather than biological gender.”

She advocates more male responsibility for childcare and for women to be granted economic, emotional, and sexual freedom from male dominance. Modern educational psychologists and child psychiatrists can all agree that acknowledging and integrating all of their human characteristics, whether considered male or female, is best for children, and parents, of both genders.

A beautiful summary on extraordinary women pioneer analysts is made by Janet Sayers in back in 1993 and still a great resource today “Mothers of Psycholanalysts”.

educational psychologist

July 6,2015  |