Sunday, October 3, 2010

Parenting and Self-Esteem

We've all heard, at times with some incredulity, that women like bad men, that the surest way to lose a woman is to be kind to her, that if a man is too good, sooner or later your partner I leave it for a son of a ... Before discarding the idea as popular nonsense, please refer to a study titled “The supermom trap:  Do involved dads erode moms' self-competence?”.  This study, conducted by Osaka University of Commerce researcher, Takayuki Sasaki, with Nancy L. Hazen and William B. Swann Jr., his colleagues at the University of Texas, focuses on parents and their attitudes toward each other's parenting styles, using a sample of 78 dual-earner couples with 8-month-old infants.

The study gives evidence of two not-so-surprising facts.  First, that when wives perceived that their husbands were capable caregivers, the greater the husbands' contribution to caregiving and the more time they spent solo with children, the lower was their sense of self-competence.  Although mothers of the sample wanted fathers to take part in childcare, when fathers did it, and when they did it a lot and well, mothers' self-esteem suffered.  Men showed no such trend.

Sasaki believes that this is the result of cultural norms:   "In American society, women are expected to take a main role in parenting despite increasingly egalitarian sex roles…  (…)  Thus, we believe that employed mothers suffer from self-competence losses when their husbands are involved and skillful because those mothers may consider that it is a failure to fulfill cultural expectations."

The second discovery of the study was that wives only approved fathers' parenting when it was like theirs.  When dads deviate from mothers' expectations, they tended to be criticized.  Sasaki told LiveScience ("Helpful Dads Can Hurt Mom's Self-Esteem") that many wives would say care-giving by their husbands is helpful, but at the same time, they would give their husbands negative feedback because their care-giving style was different from their own.

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