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Gender and Parenthood, edited by W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kilne

Gender and Parenthood, edited by W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kilne

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The essays in this collection deploy biological and social scientific perspectives to evaluate the transformative experience of parenthood for today’s women and men. They map the similar and distinct roles mothers and fathers play in their children’s lives and measure the effect of gendered parenting on child well-being, work and family arrangements, and the quality of couples’ relationships.
The essays in this collection deploy biological and social scientific perspectives to evaluate the transformative experience of parenthood for today’s women and men. They map the similar and distinct roles mothers and fathers play in their children’s lives and measure the effect of gendered parenting on child well-being, work and family arrangements, and the quality of couples’ relationships.

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Published by: Columbia University Press on Mar 06, 2013
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03/22/2015

 
IntroductIon
W. Bradford Wilcox and Kathleen Kovner Kline
“BaBies change everything.”
It is a rerain oten heard by anyone con-templating becoming a parent. From sleep disruption to loss o ree time,rom nancial worries to discipline conundrums, couples are requentlywarned that ater a baby lie will never be the same again. Yet despite howmuch parenthood can eel like a leap into the unknown, millions o uscontinue to make that leap, every year. Some o us long or a warm bundleto hold against our chests, a smiling gaze to rivet us, a silly toddler to chaseand buy toys or and make a uss over at the holidays. Others imagine some-one to throw a ball with, to tussle with on the foor, to teach lie lessons, orpass on a bit o our legacy into the uture. We know, all too well, what animpact we parents will have on our children. But what is less well knownis how our children will change
us
, as mothers and athers—even at thebiological level.Today, natural scientists and social scientists are learning a great dealabout how babies change their parents and how mothers and athers arechanged in both similar and dierent ways. Animal studies o pair-bondingmammals are yielding ascinating insights into how athers as well as moth-ers experience changes at the biochemical level, beginning even beore theospring is born. Meanwhile, social scientists are learning how parentalinvestments in areas such as money, time, discipline, and play are bothsimilar and dierent or athers and mothers. It turns out that, or men andor women, parenthood changes both our bodies and our lives. Parenthoodquite literally changes us rom the inside out.Why is this the moment to share and refect on these ndings? It is per-haps now more conusing and more daunting than ever to be a parent. Inrecent decades, proound changes have upended accepted notions o moth-ering and athering, providing new opportunities but also oten leaving new
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introduction
mothers and athers eeling as though they must gure out how to do theirparenting jobs largely on their own.Over the second hal o the twentieth century, the United States sawwidespread changes in women’s labor orce participation, in the time thatathers and mothers devote to their children, and in public attitudes towardthe public and private roles o men and women.
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In an eort to get moreschooling, get established in a job, and nd the right partner, many youngmen and women in the United States are taking more time to get marriedand to have their rst child. Men and women are marrying on average aboutve years later than they did in 1970. The age at which a woman has herrst child rose rom about twenty-one in 1970 to twenty-ve in 2006.
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Laterchildbearing is especially true or college-educated women. Their averageage at the birth o their rst child is more than thirty.Parenthood has also become a more intense and expensive experience.Today’s parents devote more time and money to the parenting enterprisethan did earlier generations. In the United States, it is estimated that resi-dential mothers and athers now spend 50 percent more time with theirchildren than they did in 1975. According to 2008 gures rom the U.S.Department o Agriculture, the average amily spends $221,190 on eachchild, up rom $183,509 in 1960.
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At the same time, as parenthood is start-ing later, people are having smaller amilies, and people are living longer,the intense experience o being a parent o children in the home now coversa smaller portion o the adult lie course than it once did.Parenthood can also be more isolating than it used to be. Recent increasesin out-o-wedlock childbearing, cohabitation, and divorce make men andwomen much more likely to bear or rear children outside o marriage andto raise them alone. The retreat rom marriage has been especially commonamong Americans without a college degree. One study ound that morethan 42 percent o children o less-educated women spend some time out-side o a stable, married amily in their rst ourteen years o lie, comparedto just 19 percent o children born to college-educated women.
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While mostsingle parents have less help with the demanding tasks o child-rearing, evenmarried parents today have less help rom extended amily and their com-munity than did parents in previous eras.These changes in parenthood have made some aspects o the contempo-rary transition to parenthood especially daunting. For many o us, there isno longer a shared script when it comes to marriage, work and amily, andhome lie. The sacrices that come with parenthood can be mystiying oradults who may have spent a decade or more living outside o a amily and
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