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Florida State University

Florida State University

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping

This article offers a new denition and an expanded conceptual model of maternal gatekeeping derived from the extant literature and critiques offered by scholars and applied to fathering. Typically, maternal gatekeeping is conceptualized as the mothers ability to restrict fathers involvement with children. We redene maternal gatekeeping as a set of complex behavioral interactions between parents, where mothers inuence father involvement through their use of controlling, facilitative, and restrictive behaviors directed at fathers childrearing and interaction with children on a regular and consistent basis. We propose a three-dimensional model (control, encouragement, and discouragement) in which each dimension operates along continua and intersects to result in 8 types of gatekeeping. We explain these types and describe examples of behaviors in terms of their inuence on father involvement. We end with suggestions for developing a measure of maternal gatekeeping and for applying the model to better understand how gatekeeping inuences and is inuenced by family patterns and characteristics. Research on father involvement has gained momentum over the past 30 years, as scholars
Department of Family and Child Sciences, 120 Convocation Way, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 (
Department of Family and Child Sciences, 120 Convocation Way, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 (

recognize that increased paternal engagement is associated with better child outcomes and stronger families (Marsiglio Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). This is coupled with evidence suggesting that fathering roles are shifting toward greater involvement (Pleck, 2010). One barrier to father involvement garnering attention is maternal gatekeeping, which is our focus here. Early scholars explored reciprocal parental inuences (Belsky, 1984; DeLuccie, 1995; Stuckey, McGhee, & Bell, 1982), but Allen and Hawkins (1999) were instrumental in establishing a relationship between specic maternal beliefs and father participation in family work, constructing the rst conceptualization and model of maternal gatekeeping that informed this research. Since then, scholars have moved toward a more thorough denition of maternal gatekeeping (e.g., Fagan & Barnett, 2003; Schoppe-Sullivan, Brown, Cannon, Mangelsdorf, & Sokolowski, 2008). However, we believe that these scholars denitions are inadequately comprehensive, because they do not address the range of behaviors that constitute maternal gatekeeping. Drawing from the extant literature, we outline a three-dimensional model that more fully illustrates this complicated phenomenon. We then suggest the need for measurement development to better inform our understanding of the antecedents and consequences of the construct. AN OVERVIEW OF MATERNAL GATEKEEPING Following several lines of research that identied the mothers role in the family as affecting fathering (e.g., DeLuccie, 1995; Hawkins & Dollahite, 1997; Palkovitz, 1984; Whiteside, 1998), other scholars built on existing ndings to

Key Words: Coparenting, father involvement, fathering, maternal gatekeeping, parental relationships.


Journal of Family Theory & Review 5 (September 2013): 176193 DOI:10.1111/jftr.12016

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping develop a targeted conceptualization of maternal gatekeeping. For example, Allen and Hawkins (1999) rst dened maternal gatekeeping as a collection of beliefs and behaviors that ultimately inhibit a collaborative effort between men and women in family work by limiting mens opportunities for learning and growing through caring for home and children (p. 200). Their denition was expanded to clarify how mothers inuence fathering, shifting from a purely restrictive process to one including both restriction and facilitation (e.g., Seery & Crowley, 2000; Walker & McGraw, 2000). Assuming that gatekeeping included both restrictive and negative as well as facilitative and positive dimensions, Van Egeren and Hawkins (2004) were the rst to examine coparenting behaviors using support and undermining as indicators of gatekeeping (personal communication, L. Van Egeren, February 5, 2010), although they did not formally label these behaviors as gatekeeping. Following Van Egeren and Hawkinss lead, scholars used restrictive and facilitative behaviors to reect the construct, identifying behaviors that both support, encourage, and increase as well as inhibit, limit, and decrease father involvement (Cannon, Schoppe-Sullivan, Mangelsdorf, Brown, & Sokolowski, 2008; Moore, 2012; SchoppeSullivan et al., 2008; Trinder, 2008). Although a two-dimensional model better addressed the complexity of the construct, we believe that a third dimension is neededcontrol. As such, we rened the denition of maternal gatekeeping as a set of complex behavioral interactions between parents, where mothers inuence father involvement through their use of controlling, restrictive, and facilitative behaviors, directed at fathers childrearing and interaction with children on a regular and consistent basis. Importantly, scholars had called for a more comprehensive model of gatekeeping that (a) was not limited to restricting fathers (Adamsons, 2010; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008; Trinder, 2008), (b) was sensitive to maternal needs and intentions about fathers (Sano, Richards, & Zvonkovic, 2008; Szabo et al., 2011), and (c) allowed for understanding a fathers role in gatekeeping (Walker & McGraw, 2000). We address the rst two points by proposing our three-dimensional model of gatekeeping in which the dimensions operate along unique but intersecting continua. We acknowledge the importance of the third point and recognize that

177 it is beyond the scope of this article to thoroughly address the fathers role in this process. Unlike much of the recent literature suggesting that maternal gatekeeping is unidirectional, with mothers behaviors inuencing fathers behaviors (Gaunt, 2008; Szabo et al., 2011), we concur with others that it is bidirectional in nature. That is, recent studies suggest that fathers are inuenced by maternal perceptions of fathering (Fagan & Palkovitz, 2011) and that both fathers (Jia & Schoppe-Sullivan, 2011) and marital interactions (McClain, 2011) inuence the parental relationship. In what follows, we describe our expanded conceptualization of maternal gatekeeping and provide a rationale for the three dimensions. For discussion purposes only we emphasize the ends of the continua, although we believe that there is much variation along the continua. We identify how these dimensions intersect and describe eight possible types of maternal gatekeepers within the context of father involvement and fathers responses to the gatekeeping process. We believe that it is important to consider the factors that inuence maternal gatekeeping, such as child characteristics (e.g., gender, disability, temperament), but we limit the scope here, addressing only behaviors that we believe reect maternal gatekeeping. We end with suggestions for future research. OUR PROPOSED MODEL OF MATERNAL GATEKEEPING In constructing a model of maternal gatekeeping, our thinking was inuenced by family systems theory and a feminist perspective. Family systems theory is used extensively in the literature on maternal gatekeeping (Fagan & Barnett, 2003; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008) as well as in the literature on coparental processes (see McHale & Lindahl, 2011). This theory offers an explanation of the ways in which parenting structure and organization inuence children, and vice versa (Cox & Paley, 2003; Minuchin, 1974). Feminist theory illuminates gender differences and related cultural expectations of parents and how families construct their power structures (Thorne, 1982). These ideas were reected in Allen and Hawkins (1999) original conceptualization of maternal gatekeeping and have been incorporated into recent studies (e.g., Kulik & Tsoref, 2010; Moore, 2012). Linking family systems and feminist theory enables us

178 to articulate the importance of family relationships and the inuence of gender and power on those relationships. Because mothers have historically assumed the role as primary caretaker in the home, the resulting common family structure meant that fathers were less involved than mothers, and maternal gatekeeping might be a frequent inuence in family relationships. With recent shifts in family roles such that fathers are more involved in family life (Pleck, 2010), the mothers role as a primary caretaker is less common, and this cultural change highlights the importance of understanding how parenting processes such as maternal gatekeeping affect families. We identify three dimensions in our model of maternal gatekeeping: control, encouragement, and discouragement. As noted, we envision that these dimensions operate on intersecting continua from low to high in their occurrence, and these intersections result in eight types of gatekeepers. Previous studies separated behaviors of encouragement and discouragement (SchoppeSullivan et al., 2008), but our model takes a unique approach by linking the dimensions as indicators of the larger maternal gatekeeping construct. Earlier research (Fagan & Barnett, 2003; McBride et al., 2005) assumed that these behaviors represented opposite ends of an encouragement dimension, and thus the behaviors were measured by a single scale on which high scores represented encouragement and low scores represented discouragement (or absence of encouragement). Separating encouragement from discouragement allows scholars to examine the different contributions that each makes to understanding the process of gatekeeping. Thereby, we treat these dimensions as independently functioning systems of behavior, much like the rationale offered by Fincham and Beach (2010) in their conceptualization of positivity and negativity as separate dimensions in marital interaction, and like that offered by Niehuis, Lee, Reifman, Swenson, and Hunsaker (2012) in their conceptualization of idealization and disillusionment as separate dimensions in romantic relationships. The rationale of these scholars is applicable here, because it is likely that even mothers who are predominately encouraging of fathers also express some degree of discouragement toward them, either implicitly or explicitly. For example, some mothers may score high on both dimensions, which accounts for mixed messages they receive from fathers about father

Journal of Family Theory & Review involvement. Other mothers may be highly discouraging during court proceedings or when dealing with custody issues but highly encouraging when asking fathers to pay child support or attending to children during scheduled times. We believe that this more intricate way of looking at how mothers support or discourage father involvement may provide additional insight into the complexity of this phenomenon and assist in teasing out the processes that are most inuential in both coparental relationships and parentchild relationships. Fincham and Beach (2010) also suggested that using separate measures of positivity and negativity allows researchers to explicate the reciprocal nature of family interactions. They explained that negative marital interactions may increase before positive interactions decrease, and increases in positive interaction may precede decreases in negative interaction. Their approach accounts for the changes that occur over time, and we anticipate that this might be similar in coparental interactions. We believe that viewing maternal gatekeeping as a reciprocal process more accurately represents how it changes over time and how the resulting maternal patterns of behavior reect different types of gatekeeping. For example, families dealing with divorce may see substantial changes in both encouragement and discouragement. Early on, mothers may be more discouraging of fathers but still maintain a high level of encouragement, hoping to show support of the fathers role with the children. As the divorce progresses, the mothers encouraging behaviors may decrease and her frustration with the father or with his parenting may increase simultaneously. In addition, a fathers inuence on the dimensions of encouragement and discouragement may be quite different. Fathers who fail to increase their involvement in response to the mothers encouragement may see her discouraging behaviors slowly escalate. On the contrary, fathers who increase involvement in response to these attempts may see a reduction in the mothers discouraging behaviors. Separation of these dimensions illustrates the potential complexity of how gatekeeping functions in a reciprocal way and the role fathers play in the process. Dimension 1: Control In the extant literature, maternal gatekeeping is typically dened as a means of regulating father involvement (DeLuccie, 1995; Fagan & Barnett,

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping 2003; Kulik & Tsoref, 2010). Scholars argue that maternal gatekeeping is rooted in power distribution within families and is based on long-standing cultural expectations pertaining to gender and family roles assumed by mothers (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Gaunt, 2005; Moore, 2012). We concur and include control as an essential component of maternal gatekeeping. Several studies have identied control as an important factor in coparental relationships (Nelson, Clampet-Lundquist, & Edin, 2002; Tamis-LeMonda & McFadden, 2010); however, no study has explicated the specic behaviors that might constitute control in coparenting relationships. Thus, we suggest that behavior reecting attempts to manage or regulate the ow of information, energy, resources, and people (boundary management) is the dening element of control and is essential for understanding gatekeeping behaviors. Our model recognizes the role of power in relationships by focusing on how mothers manage family boundaries as a key behavioral indicator of maternal control. Further, we suggest that control is yielded through the degree to which (a) mothers hold a leadership position in the family with ultimate decisionmaking power regarding family functioning and (b) how intensely mothers oversee fatherchild interactions. Mothers high on control have much of the parental decision-making authority and dictate childrearing and family management. Mothers who are low on control have little power over fathers and, through their behavior toward fathers and others, indicate that they are not in charge of the family. Although control functions on a continuum (see Table 1), we do not believe that this dimension indicates which parent has the most control in the family. Our intention is to reect only the degree to which mothers are controlling over family matters and fathering behaviors. We suggest that control is neither a good nor a bad way of interacting in the family and, therefore, does not indicate a maternal preference about father involvement. Mothers characterized by low or no boundary control behave in ways that are not dictatorial or supervisory and establish themselves as having an equal or lesser role in leading the parenting relationship. They are external participants in the father-child relationship, do not dictate how fathers can be involved, and do not tell fathers how to manage the children. They intentionally or inadvertently place the responsibility on the


Table 1. The Three Dimensions of Maternal Gatekeeping

No control over father Cooperative or father directed parenting

No negativity toward fathers Absence of discouraging behaviors

No positivity toward fathers Absence of supportive behaviors Neutrality

Low ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ High Family decision maker Dictates childrearing and family management Encouragement dimension Low ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ High Welcoming toward fathers High degree of warmth Supportive of fathering Discouragement dimension Low ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- High Overt criticism Negatively directed toward fathers Undermining and sarcastic attitudes

Control Dimension

180 father to initiate involvement and construct his relationship with his children. Mothers who have low control may share family management strategies with fathers by offering feedback or suggestions regarding parenting decisions and behaviors, much like a consultant rather than an expert. In some families, these mothers may trust the fathers ability to parent and dedicate their time and efforts to understanding the fathers beliefs and actions regarding parenting. In contrast, they may relinquish control to fathers altogether and remove themselves from decision making and family management. We envision that some mothers may also focus on their career, have mental or physical health problems, or be in an abusive relationship with the father. We acknowledge that even in situations where a mother consciously and voluntarily chooses to follow the lead of the father, she is behaving in a way that reects low control. When mothers exert high levels of control in the family around parenting and behave in ways that manage the coparental relationship, they set the bar for how fathers engage with their children. Mothers who maintain high boundary control would be evident in examples of gatekeeping as traditionally dened in the literature (see Moore, 2012; Sano et al., 2008). For example, this high level of control emerges when mothers make fathers interact with children, set the rules for him with the children, and supervise his interactions with them. Other behaviors such as making the family schedule, managing nances, and coordinating leisure activities on the basis of their own preferences and desires also would be indicative of highly controlling mothers (Allen & Hawkins, 1999). Fathers may need to prove to controlling mothers that their presence in their childrens life is both benecial and helpful. In turn, mothers can grant fathers access to children and accept their approved involvement with parenting responsibilities. One such example of high maternal control is evident in divorced families in which mothers have primary custody and hold decision-making responsibilities that affect the fathers ability to engage with their children (Madden-Derdich & Leonard, 2000). On this side of the continuum mothers hold responsibility for initiating father involvement regardless of the fathers investment in being involved. Incorporating control into our model of maternal gatekeeping underscores an essential but not solitary component for studying gatekeeping. Although researchers initially focused on

Journal of Family Theory & Review gatekeeping as restricting fathers, we believe that control allows mothers to both limit and enhance father involvement. The idea of boundary control reects some of the gatekeeping strategies mothers use in managing paternal access to children. However, other aspects of gatekeeping are left unexplained in this single dimension, so we also have included encouragement and discouragement. Dimension 2: Encouragement We borrow from scholars who have suggested that maternal gatekeeping is both restrictive and facilitative (see Cannon et al., 2008; Trinder, 2008; Van Egeren & Hawkins, 2004). We operationalized facilitation through indicators of support and encouragement. In prior literature, encouragement was dened as maternal behaviors intended to increase the level of paternal participation with children (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008). Because evidence suggests that mothers engage in a variety of behaviors that are more or less supportive of fathering (Pleck & Hofferth, 2008), mothers role in father involvement includes the degree to which they act to support fathers. Evidence links mothers encouragement and father participation in American families (Cannon et al., 2008; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008) and Botswana families (Dyer, Roby, Mupedziswa, & Day, 2011). Evidence also links mothers beliefs about the importance of fathers in child development and the fathers involvement (Fagan & Barnett, 2003; McBride et al., 2005). We suggest that a high level of encouragement indicates that mothers provide positive feedback, invite cooperative parenting interactions, and behave in ways that suggest that fathers are important. These mothers may be generally welcoming toward fathers, be kind toward them, and take a genuine interest in their adopting an inuential role with children. Some mothers may be openly supportive of coparenting with fathers and overtly express their satisfaction with the fathers involvement. In contrast, they may also treat the father as the superior parent, in which case the mother may then shy away from parenting because she views herself as inadequate or harmful to the child. Either way, the mothers encouraging behaviors are intended to lead fathers to increase or maintain high levels of involvement. Research supports this denition (Schoppe-Sullivan et al.,

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping 2008) and shows that other encouraging behaviors are important, such as mothers giving compliments and invitations to fathers, soliciting parenting perspectives from fathers, and encouraging fathers to spend individual time with children (Dyer et al., 2011). Others add that mothers provide fathers with helpful feedback during interactions with children, ask for the fathers help in parental or household tasks (Allen & Hawkins, 1999), use supportive or appreciative language with fathers, and celebrate father-oriented rituals (e.g., Fathers Day, birthdays, religious holidays). In addition to overt behavioral encouragement, mothers might engage in supportive body language with fathers (e.g., using touch, facial gestures, and other nonverbal communication) and speak favorably about fathers to others, including the children. Overall, the occurrence of such behaviors or the degree of intensity with which mothers promote father involvement is instrumental in dening the mothers position along this continuum (see Table 1). Mothers who frequently encourage fathers and engage in supportive behaviors would measure high on encouragement, whereas mothers who have fewer such behaviors and are less supportive would be low on encouragement. Dimension 3: Discouragement We propose that discouragement is a third dimension of maternal gatekeeping. Early denitions viewed gatekeeping as purely restrictive, implicitly identied maternal gatekeeping as a discouraging process (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Barry, Smith, Deutsch, & Perry-Jenkins, 2011; Fagan & Barnett, 2003); therefore, discouragement was conceptualized as the opposite end of the encouragement continuum. Recent scholars, though, have distinguished encouragement and discouragement. In fact, Van Egeren and Hawkins (2004) used different subscales to differentiate criticism (a form of discouragement) and encouragement in coparenting. Schoppe-Sullivan et al. (2008) used this same measure as their indicator of discouragement. Their results indicated that maternal encouragement inuences paternal behavior, whereas maternal criticism does not. We argue that the understanding of maternal gatekeeping would be enhanced by a more comprehensive denition of maternal discouragement. Because maternal behaviors can communicate to fathers their

181 importance or utility, mothers may discourage father involvement through a variety of behaviors with fathers, children, extended family members, and the community at large (Sano et al., 2008; Trinder, 2008). We dene discouragement as the degree to which mothers are discouraging and critical of fathers and their involvement with children (see Table 1). Schoppe-Sullivan et al. (2008) referred specically to maternal criticism, which we believe is a single, albeit substantial, aspect of discouragement. We used their work as well as items from Van Egeren and Hawkinss (2004) Parental Regulation Inventory (PRI) to provide examples of discouraging behaviors. Such behaviors include overt criticism and a mother telling the father what she thinks he did wrong. We include additional overt discouraging behaviors, such as interrupting the fathers time with the child, dissuading him from interacting with the child, and avoiding discussions about parenting the child. We suggest that some discouraging behaviors are more subtle or covert. Schoppe-Sullivan et al. suggested a number of covert discouraging behaviors that t our model, such as complaining about fathers behaviors to others, redoing tasks completed by fathers, and some forms of nonverbal communication (e.g., eye rolling, scornful looks). We offer additional subtle behaviors that include attempts at undermining the fathers parenting choices, pretending to support his decisions, and making sarcastic comments to him. As discussed here, the encouragement and discouragement dimensions specify behaviors that further clarify the ways in which mothers inuence father involvement. These dimensions are essential to illustrating the importance of gatekeeping as including both restrictive and facilitative processes. Adding control as a third dimension provides a more inclusive model of maternal gatekeeping than do the encouragement and discouragement dimensions alone. The consideration of each dimension as an interdependent yet unique contributor in our conceptualization of maternal gatekeeping is a strength that sets this model apart from current models of maternal gatekeeping. Finally, our three-dimensional model allows for increased precision in understanding the specic mechanisms by which mothers inuence father involvement. We believe that examining the intersection of these three dimensions provides

182 greater understanding of the processes by which mothers inuence fathers. RESULTING GENERAL TYPES OF MATERNAL GATEKEEPING We look to the intersection of control, encouragement, and discouragement and propose two broad types of gatekeeping: polarized and ambivalent mothers. Polarized mothers clearly indicate their preference for father involvement and behave in ways that support this preference by being predominantly encouraging or discouraging, whereas ambivalent mothers are ambiguous in their preferences. Ambivalent mothers engage in equivalent levels of encouragement and discouragement, leaving fathers, children, and possibly even themselves confused as to their preference for father involvement. Under each of these two broad types we further identify eight subcategories (polarized: traditional gate blockers, passive gate snubbers, facilitative gate openers, and passive gate welcomers;
Table 2. Types of Maternal Gatekeepers Types of Gatekeeping Polarized gatekeepers Traditional gate blockers: high control, low encouragement, high discouragement Passive gate snubbers: low control, low encouragement, high discouragement Facilitative gate openers: high control, high encouragement, low discouragement Passive gate welcomer: low control, high encouragement, low discouragement Behavioral Indicators

Journal of Family Theory & Review ambivalent: confused gate managers, apathetic gate managers, opinionated gate watchers, invisible gate ignorers; see Table 2 for a general overview of these subcategories). We believe that the degree to which mothers control family functioning is a necessary element in understanding maternal gatekeeping; however, it is the differences and incongruence along the encouragement and discouragement continua that establish and dene the specic variation in the gatekeeping behaviors exhibited. Polarized Mothers Polarized mothers are those who clearly indicate a preference for or against father involvement through their use of either discouraging or encouraging behaviors. These mothers are well represented in the literature. Most studies of maternal gatekeeping dene the concept in terms of only restrictive behaviors (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Fagan & Barnett, 2003) or consisting of both restrictive and facilitative methods of

Actively dictate terms of father involvement Communicate directly or indirectly that paternal presence is unwelcome Speak negatively about the father to the children Talk negatively about father to child Accidentally miss father-child time Redo tasks and/or parenting completed by fathers Schedules father-child time Celebrates events with or about fathers Directs fathers how to play with children Share in family management decisions equally Actively engaged in a coparenting relationship OR Stays disengaged from the family Avoids family interactions Shows inconsistent behavioral patterns Behaviors change across situations or times Manages family interactions and boundaries Assume leadership in the family Behave in ways that suggest fathers are nonentities Take a neutral stance, dont try to shift fathers current level of involvement Compliments and criticizes fathers Passive encouragement and discouragement Share in coparental interactions or follow the lead of fathers Involved with children but uninvolved in facilitating or restricting fathers

Ambivalent gatekeepers Confused gate manager: high control, high encouragement, high discouragement Apathetic gate managers: high control, low encouragement, low discouragement Opinionated gate watchers: low control, high encouragement, high discouragement Invisible gate ignorers: low control, low encouragement, low discouragement

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping managing father involvement (Roy & Dyson, 2005; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008), thereby describing mothers as primarily encouraging or discouraging. Thus, our dening characteristic of polarized mothers is their clear use of encouraging or discouraging behaviors that communicate what they want from the father of their children. In addition, mothers, children, fathers, and the community are likely to be clear about how mothers behave toward fathers. Traditional gate blockers (high control, low encouragement, and high discouragement). Maternal gatekeeping has been traditionally identied as highly controlling and discouraging, with little or no encouraging behavior (see Allen & Hawkins, 1999; DeLuccie, 1995). This combination of behaviors creates a challenging environment for fathers who are able to be, and interested in being, active participants with their children. However, fathers who are uninterested in being involved may be welcoming of this form of gatekeeping. These mothers do not support paternal involvement, have the resources (e.g., custody, presence in the home, a stronger relationship with children) to construct barriers between fathers and children, and they give little, if any, positive feedback about the fathers involvement. They exert inuence over fathers by actively dictating the terms of father involvement, and they communicate directly and indirectly that paternal presence is unwelcome. Behaviors that are restrictive in nature, such as preventing access or visitation, engaging in hurtful communication (e.g., sarcasm, being mean, or being aggressive), avoiding paternal contact, managing nancial matters (Moore, 2012), and speaking negatively about the father to the children, are characteristics of this type of gatekeeping. We recognize that traditional gate blockers do not always unnecessarily limit father involvement. In situations where concerns over child abuse exist, these gatekeeping strategies may be essential for creating a safe and secure environment. Also, fathers who are involved in crime or who abuse drugs or alcohol may have limited access to children for safety reasons. In studies using data from the Fragile Families Child Wellbeing study, scholars found that mothers in high-risk groups tend to protect children from unhealthy fathers (Carlson & Hognas, 2011), and these mothers might have used traditional gate-blocking strategies. Finally,

183 children whose fathers are not interested in being involved could benet from the mothers discouragement and lack of desire for father involvement. These mothers also might serve a protective function so that children are less affected by uninvolved or uninterested fathers. Although this form of gatekeeping has been characterized as detrimental to father involvement (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Fagan & Barnett, 2003; McBride et al., 2005), we suggest that this form of gatekeeping may lead to positive outcomes for children and families in some circumstances. Passive gate snubbers (low control, low encouragement, and high discouragement). Trinder (2008) identied a group of mothers who maintain little control over family boundaries and who are highly discouraging of father involvement. These gatekeepers have little ability or inuence to limit father involvement; however, they clearly indicate to the father, children, and others that paternal involvement is either unwanted or unneeded. They might talk negatively about fathers to children, accidentally miss or avoid father-child time, or redo tasks completed by fathers when both parents live together. A critical distinction between traditional gate blockers and passive gate snubbers is that the limitations posed by mothers absence of control may restrict their ability to directly constrain fathers. Thus, some mothers resort to using high levels of discouragement, in perhaps subtle ways, as their only recourse to inuence father involvement. We speculate that mothers in this category of gatekeeping lack shared control of the family and are more likely to have limited power altogether. We also suggest that passive gate snubbers may have relationships with their coparent similar to what Markman and Coleman (2012) call continuously contentious. They found that some mothers were forced into shared coparenting through court decisions that reduced her control. Those mothers are likely not supportive of fathers and engage in high levels of discouragement with them. Because of the control imposed by the legal system, the inuence of these women in the family system is also limited, and they are unable to directly manage father involvement. The strategies employed by these gatekeepers may not be ones that are chosen; rather, other more powerful inuences force mothers into situations

184 of low control. We also suggest that this type of gatekeeping may be particularly salient in minority families where extended kin networks are important and potentially more powerful (Jones & Lindahl, 2011). Such mothers may have little control with the father; however, the extended family may be the source of power and control for some passive gate snubbers. Although passive gate snubbing may appear to be underhanded or manipulative, we recognize that these strategies can serve a protective function. It is possible that mothers feel powerless in the home, and their low control is the only way to keep themselves or their children safe. Again, in abusive homes, mothers who use high-control strategies or overt discouragement might agitate the abusing father and create a potentially more violent situation. Facilitative gate openers (high control, high encouragement, and low discouragement). The category of facilitative gate openers includes mothers who manage the children and family interactions, maintaining a high level of authority over the amount and type of father involvement. Although they have decisionmaking power, these mothers also strongly encourage fathers to be engaged and involved through spending time with the children and participating in parenting decisions and choices. These mothers likely want father involvement and tend to indicate that fathers are important (Moore, 2012; Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008) through their limited use of discouragement or negative feedback regarding paternal interactions. They may even make great efforts to assist fathers in getting or staying involved with children by scheduling time for father-child activities, celebrating special events, or directing fathers on methods of playing and engaging with children. Finally, they may be forceful parents and create situations in which fathers have little or no choice but to engage with the children. Although we acknowledge that fathers may not provide the best-quality childrearing in this situation, we believe that this constitutes gate opening, because mothers are leading fathers toward increased involvement. Teaching and mentoring are also important maternal behaviors in which mothers have strong expectations of how to best parent children and instruct or model for fathers the correct, better, or appropriate ways of interacting. A unique characteristic of facilitative gate

Journal of Family Theory & Review openers is that they instruct or train fathers by refraining from giving negative feedback and indicating that fathers are incompetent. Trinder (2008) found that divorced mothers often encourage father involvement while maintaining a position of control. In such cases, fathers were involved with children under the supervision of the expert parent-mother. In essence, these mothers are invested in father involvement, and they behave in ways that encourage rather than discourage such involvement. Importantly, this form of maternal gatekeeping may be quite benecial in healthy family systems. Fathers who have high-stress careers or work long hours may see this type of gatekeeping as helpful to them, because it provides a more efcient way for them to be positively involved. Therefore, the mothers highly controlling and highly encouraging ways serve as a positive coparenting strategy. Passive gate welcomers (low control, high encouragement, and low discouragement). Mothers who are passive gate welcomers have little control in the family system, are highly encouraging of paternal participation with children, and refrain from discouraging fathers. Like facilitative gate openers, they are typically positive toward paternal involvement and behave in ways that indicate that fathers are important to children. However, passive gate welcomers have little or no direct inuence on whether the father is involved, perhaps because they assume that family leadership is the fathers domain. Some mothers in this group might be disengaged from the family, avoid family interactions, or pursue a lifestyle outside of the family, not wanting to engage in parenting but also sending messages that father involvement is wanted or expected. This arrangement may occur when mothers have highly demanding careers and fathers choose to stay at home and provide primary care for children. Further, passive gate welcomers could be similar to mothers who attempt to engage fathers from a distance and encourage them to be involved (Roy & Dyson, 2005); however, these same mothers have little or no decision-making control that would serve to increase father involvement. In other families, mothers and fathers may share in family management decisions and be actively engaged in a coparenting relationship based on equality and cooperation. We speculate that the intention of these mothers is not to increase

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping father involvement but to maintain a high level of father involvement in already active fathers. We speculate that passive gate welcoming may occur in divorced families where custody is evenly shared and that are identied as having always amicable coparental relationships (Markman & Coleman, 2012). Further, this form of gatekeeping may occur in high-risk families where positive coparental relationships lead to increased father involvement (Carlson, McLanahan, & Brooks-Gunn, 2008). Families in this group place much of the responsibility for father involvement on fathers, as mothers inuence them primarily as coparental bystanders. In families where father involvement is high, and these strategies are oriented toward maintaining father involvement, this may be a desirable pattern of gatekeeping. For other families, fathers take the initiative to dene their involvement, and although mothers support their efforts, some fathers might be highly uncomfortable and limit their involvement because of personal fears or incompetence (Cannon et al., 2008; SchoppeSullivan et al., 2008, Walker & McGraw, 2000). Such situations can set the tone and dene the structure and hierarchy regarding how families, specically fathers, participate in the executive control of the family. In families in which neither parent functions as an executive in family functioning, parental support can be lacking, thus leaving children without adequate guidance and leadership. Ambivalent Mothers Ambivalent mothers generally reect a degree of confusion about their preferences regarding father involvement. They might contradict themselves and give fathers and children mixed messages about what is valuable and what is not. Such contradictions contribute to a sense of ambivalence and confusion. Maternal ambivalence might be based on deeper-rooted internal confusion about or struggle over father involvement (Wong, McElwain, & Halberstadt 2009). In addition, maternal ambivalence is just as confusing for fathers, some of whom might report challenges in dealing with mixed messages pertaining to how to engage with children (Roy & Dyson, 2005). This may be particularly salient in Mexican American families, where parental incongruence resulting from ambivalent gatekeeping strategies has been associated with

185 marital and adolescent adjustment problems (Solmeyer, Killoren, McHale, & Updegraff, 2011). Solmeyer et al. (2011) identied a cultural theme in which these patterns were strongest when families were oriented toward Mexican culture rather than toward Anglo culture. We also believe that the ambivalence of mothers may arise from any number of conditions that challenge them to restrict or facilitate father involvement. As examples, mothers may behave in ambivalent ways because of general indecisiveness, internal conicts between career aspirations and maternal values, or mixed feelings about the characteristics of an individual father. Further, ambivalent behavior may result from the mothers own internal conicts between the importance of fathers and their perceptions of individual characteristics of those fathers. Confused gate managers (high control, high encouragement, and high discouragement). Mothers in the category of confused gate managers have high levels of all three dimensions of gatekeeping. They manage family boundaries and direct family interactions, specically when and how fathers are involved. They are the ultimate decision makers and, in this case, might resemble traditional gatekeepers (Allen & Hawkins, 1999). However, they also are highly encouraging toward fathers, so their behavior reects confusion about their preferences and desires for paternal involvement (Sano et al., 2008). Confused gate managers may be the most frustrating for fathers. Mothers may encourage father-child relationships and support the fathers inuence on child development in certain domains. At other times or in other circumstances, these mothers may support fathers to partake only in specied roles (e.g., breadwinner, caretaker, husband) that take precedence over comprehensive involvement. Any deviation from this expectation results in mothers discouraging fathers from engaging in those domains (Fagan & Barnett, 2003; McBride et al., 2005). The combination of being highly encouraging and highly discouraging sends conicting messages that fathers are both important and unimportant, thus fostering unclear maternal expectations of paternal behavior. Because these mothers are highly controlling, the resulting ambivalence from unclear expectations has direct implications for how fathers engage with

186 children (Wong, Mangelsdorf, Brown, Neff, & Schoppe-Sullivan, 2009). Their behaviors may be difcult to assess because of the inconsistency and variability from situation to situation. For example, some mothers are consistently encouraging when fathers are engaged in activities outside of the home, such as coaching sports teams, playing at the park, or attending community activities. These same mothers may be highly discouraging only when fathers attempt to limit childrens behavior with consequences, modify routines, or teach household chores. For other mothers, high discouragement and high encouragement vary by daily mood states or external stressor events and thus causes confusion. An example is a mother who is highly encouraging one day when the father gives the child a bath (because she is in a positive mood), whereas the next day the same mother is highly discouraging of such involvement (because her mood has taken a downturn). Any number of individual conditions (e.g., postpartum depression, general depression, bipolar disorder, premenstrual syndrome) may affect the occurrence of such uctuations between encouraging and discouraging behaviors. Relational conditions, such as marital satisfaction and coparental satisfaction, may also affect uctuations between these same behaviors. Regardless of the way in which mothers express high encouragement and discouragement, confusion is created and presents a substantial challenge for fathers engagement with children (Roy & Dyson, 2005). In addition to confusion in these families, it is likely that there may be a high degree of conict between parents. Conicting messages and a high level of maternal control ripen the situation for maternal gatekeeping (Cowan et al., 2007). Involved fathers may be more inclined to voice their confusion about different messages and exert themselves within the mothers ambiguous preferences. This conict would certainly have implications for father involvement (Bronte-Tinkew, Horowitz, & Carrano, 2010) and for child outcomes (Teubert & Pinquat, 2010). Apathetic gate managers (high control, low encouragement, and low discouragement). We envision these mothers as predominantly having high levels of control and apathetic attitudes toward father involvement. Although they have a stronghold over the family boundaries and

Journal of Family Theory & Review are the executive decision makers regarding family functioning, they show no preference for or against the fathers involvement. These mothers are identied through the absence of behaviors that are either encouraging or discouraging. Being encouraging of fathers might indicate that involvement is wanted when it is not, and being discouraging might violate social discourse emphasizing the importance of father involvement (Lamb, 2010). We anticipate that apathetic gate managers appear to approach father involvement with irrelevance or indifference. Also, fathers, who themselves take an apathetic stance regarding their involvement, in turn, may facilitate this form of gatekeeping. We speculate that mothers in this group may behave hopelessly in response to fathers, simply completing child-care tasks alone rather than trying to engage more distant fathers. Although these mothers all behave in similar ways toward fathers, we speculate that their behavior may serve several functions in the family. Some mothers might behave in ways that suggest that fathers are nonentities. They might be single parents with uninvolved fathers, and therefore they parent independently of the fathers inuence. Others might not care whether fathers are involved and take a neutral stance as to the fathers role with children, not trying to increase, decrease, or maintain his level of involvement. We envision that this occurs in families where fathers work long hours, travel frequently, live apart from the family, or make no effort to change their level of involvement. This category could be salient for mothers who have children with multiple birth partners. Apathetic gate managing may be associated with reduced coparental quality, which is common for families in which multipartnered fertility is present (Carlson & Hognas, 2011). We do not suggest that these fathers are uninvolved with children but rather that mothers act without concern or investment in the fathers involvement. Another example of apathetic gate managers includes mothers who are resigned to accepting the futility of their attempts at shifting father involvement. They may want the father to be involved but have stopped attempts to engage him. This strategy may be employed by mothers as a last resort after being unable to shift the fathers involvement using other strategies. We believe that apathetic gate managers are not confused about their views on father involvement but that their behavior is likely

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping more confusing or challenging for fathers who want to be involved. In families where fathers are involved or want involvement, the behavior of these mothers likely maintains a family dynamic that supports the mothers control in the family (Cox & Paley, 2003). Thus, they resort to gatekeeping strategies to maintain control through avoidance of either encouraging or discouraging his involvement. Being high in control establishes the mothers executive role, and ambivalence about father involvement leads to immobility in paternal behavior. Mothers can hold onto their role in the family and leave little space for fathers to contribute to family functioning. Fathers resistance to discouragement and activation in response to encouragement is impossible in a family where neither dimension is represented. When faced with challenges to maternal control, these families likely experience changes in maternal encouragement or discouragement. Therefore, in some families this may be a transitory status. Opinionated gate watchers (low control, high encouragement, and high discouragement). Mothers who are opinionated gate watchers are most strongly identied by their lack of control behavior coupled with frequent contradictory messages to fathers about their involvement. They have little family control and are limited in their ability to direct father involvement with children; however, they send mixed signals using high levels of encouragement and discouragement to indicate a preference of whether and how fathers should be engaged. The behaviors of opinionated gate watchers may be similar to those of confused gate managers, with differences associated with the level of control. Opinionated gate-watching mothers may be more prone to passive behaviors in their encouragement (e.g., smiling when fathers engage with children, making positive comments about the father to the children) and discouragement (e.g., making snide comments to the father, redoing tasks that he completes). It is this quiet ambiguity that is their dening characteristic. These mothers function in several ways to manage father involvement. We speculate that low control may be a strategy for dealing with fathers who have ultimate control in the family. Having little control in family interactions fosters increased confusion, through which mothers feel conicted about father involvement

187 but have no power to direct the family system. For example, families with fathers who stay at home to care for children may be associated with mothers who use opinionated gate-watching strategies. These fathers may make a majority of decisions. In response, the mother may behave both encouraging toward the father, because she appreciates his role with the children, and discouraging, because of her own frustrations about societal expectations of her as a mother. We also speculate that when this strategy is used to establish shared parental control, the ambivalence of encouraging and discouraging behaviors may be frustrating for both parents. Consider the case of divorced mothers who share custody with fathers. They share control of the children, and these mothers may behave encouragingly (e.g., taking the children to the fathers home, informing him of extracurricular activities) and discouragingly (e.g., talking negatively about him to the children, criticizing his choices). For fathers, this form of gatekeeping is likely to be the least clear of all our categories. There are confusing messages about maternal preferences or status in the family that leave members wondering what is expected from them. This could serve several purposes for limiting or inuencing father involvement. Some mothers attempt to get fathers involved by releasing control and increasingly encourage his involvement; however, his resistance to her behaviors may be frustrating for her, thus leading to increased maternal discouragement (Thompson & Walker, 1989). Other mothers might be in a state of ux while determining how to manage a highly controlling father. These mothers could decide to take a low-control approach as a result of paternal interactions and encourage the fathers involvement when he is with the children but discourage his involvement when he is away from the children. Thus, these opinionated gate watchers might prove equally confusing to children and fathers in determining the optimal level of father involvement. Invisible gate ignorers (low control, low encouragement, and low discouragement). Gatekeepers who are invisible gate ignorers are characterized by low levels on all three dimensions. They have little control in the family and refrain from encouraging or discouraging father involvement. Their role with fathers may not be well dened, and they either share in coparental interactions

188 or follow the fathers lead. These mothers reect ambivalence through their seemingly careless approach to fathers, and possibly hopelessness about their own or the fathers degree of involvement. Their behavior indicates that they have little or no inuence over fathers, and they may not be invested in their role or may have become complacent with their role. Mothers in this group may have different interests or may have given up ghting fathers to limit their involvement. These mothers have little ability to inuence father involvement; however, we believe that that their behavior reects gatekeeping, because it inuences the fathers choices in engaging with children. We believe that invisible gate ignoring may be an uncommon gatekeeping strategy. Similar to all other patterns of gatekeeping discussed here, we identify several ways that these mothers likely behave. Some invisible gate ignorers may appear disengaged from the family and in pursuit of other areas, such as career, extended family connections, or even addictive behaviors. They may need to care for a sick family member or may be preoccupied with other commitments that leave them in a position of little inuence on the children and the father. Others are engaged in the family, but their inuence on fathers remains minimal and passive. For example, mothers using invisible gate-ignoring strategies might be found in divorced families where fathers have primary custody. In these situations, mothers are involved with the children and share decisionmaking authority; however, they are uninvolved in facilitating or restricting fathers. Although mothers give some mixed messages about father involvement, their avoidance or limited engagement reduces the degree to which their ambivalence is relevant to fathers. In this same example, a mother who remains involved in the family at a distance might voice her opinions about parenting the children, and the father, in turn, might engage in paternal gatekeeping and disregard her opinion because of her lack of engagement, thus rendering her ineffective and irrelevant. Fathers who interact with invisible gateignoring mothers could take a leadership role in the family or refrain from involvement. In fact, this may be a protective form of gatekeeping in which fathers who are highly supportive step up and protect children from unsupportive mothers (Martin, Ryan, & Brooks-Gunn, 2010). Logically, these mothers are prime candidates

Journal of Family Theory & Review for paternal gatekeeping, as fathers become highly involved and present in the lives of the children. In addition to mothers remaining distant and removed from family interactions, these women might also suffer from severe distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, addictions) that prevents them from interacting more frequently with their children. This complicated group of mothers is likely to have little, if any, evidence of effective gatekeeping behaviors in their interactions with the father. ADDITIONAL MODEL CONSIDERATIONS Shifts in Gatekeeping Over Time We recognize that gatekeeping is a dynamic rather than a static process, so we expect the model to change as families change in response to internal and external inuences. Some of these changes might be quite dramatic, as evidenced by shifting on two or three dimensions. For example, increasing spousal disaffection that results in divorce is likely to affect how gatekeeping behaviors are enacted in families. Before divorce, the mother may engage in passive gate-welcoming behaviors, thus providing open access for father involvement. Afterward, she may become a traditional gate blocker, in which she limits and restricts him. On the contrary, Markman and Coleman (2012) found that after divorce some mothers fell into a bad to better category, in which coparenting relationships went from high conict to more cooperative. In this situation, opinionated gate watching may be an important transitory condition for mothers moving from traditional gatekeeping to passive gate welcoming. Such movement along the proposed dimensions can have a substantial effect on children, more so than situations in which less dramatic structural shifts occur or consistency reigns. For some, shifts in gatekeeping are less dramatic, in that mothers move along only one of the continua on different occasions or circumstances or they move in small increments. Consider a passive gate snubber who resides with the father and engages in behaviors that are highly discouraging, with little encouragement. She then shifts to higher boundary control when they physically separate, and she takes on behavior more representative of a traditional gate blocker. Although this may represent a one-dimensional change in the amount of

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping control, the movement into traditional gate blocking (where she exerts high levels of discouragement of father involvement in a different context) takes on a different meaning. Therefore, the shift in control means that she manages father involvement more overtly and possibly more effectively. Another example could occur when a mother moves from being a confused gate manager to a facilitative gate opener. Perhaps this would occur when a highly controlling mother limits father involvement while simultaneously attempts to get him to be more involved. When the father increases his involvement and spends more time with the family, the mothers discouraging behaviors decrease, thereby moving her toward facilitative behaviors. Our point here is that such changes in circumstances are not static and can occur at any time during childrearing affecting mothers, fathers, and children alike. We also acknowledge that typical developmental changes in children and families inuence maternal gatekeeping behaviors. Parenting infants requires a different set of skills than does parenting adolescents, and as children move through the developmental stages, the strategies of coparenting are expected to shift. However, it is difcult to predict how coparenting behaviors inuence older children and adolescents, as little research exists (Feinberg, Kan, & Hetherington, 2007). Research does suggest that as children age, father involvement changes (Wood & Repetti, 2004), and fathers are more engaged in school-related and social activities with older children rather than the caretaking and playful activities common with younger children (Yeung, Sandberg, Davis-Kean, & Hofferth, 2001). It would be reasonable to expect that maternal gatekeeping would look different as children age. For example, an opinionated gate watcher may be more likely to tell the father of a young child that he is playing well with the child but that he is also not helping the child to clean his room properly. In contrast, with adolescent children, these mothers may tell an adolescent that she believed the father made a good choice in helping a daughter with homework but was remiss in his suggestions to her about her dating choices. We anticipate that such developmental changes in children, sans parent development, will affect the specic behaviors addressed in the model. Recognition of the Reciprocal Nature of Gatekeeping


We see maternal gatekeeping not as a deciency on the part of a mother but as a set of interactions reecting the coparental relationship and the willingness and ability of both mothers and fathers to collaborate in parenting. We suggest that our gatekeeping model applies to any family situation in which responsibility for children is shared (e.g., grandparent and mother, aunt and father, mother and foster parent, father and stepfather). In the typical family structure where parents share parenting tasks, mothers would still t our proposed model of gatekeeping, and their behavior would predominantly reect high encouragement, with variation on the control dimension. Discouragement would be low, as mothers who are willing to share parenting tasks are likely more willing to accept and appreciate father involvement (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Kulik & Tsoref, 2010; SchoppeSullivan et al., 2008). Therefore, we speculate that these mothers would likely be facilitative gate openers or passive gate welcomers. Importantly, we would be remiss to suggest that our gatekeeping model applies only to mothers. Although paternal gatekeeping may not include the same behaviors as outlined here in reference to maternal gatekeeping, we suggest that either parent can inuence the other. Specically with fathers, there may be some distinctively different strategies used to gatekeep mothers. For example, fathers high on the control dimension may use more aggressive tactics to manage maternal involvement, exerting their power physically or emphatically insisting on his having the leadership role. Despite the unidirectional path identied in research regarding maternal gatekeeping, we suggest that this relationship is neither linear nor simple. We agree with Thompson and Walkers (1989) criticism of early maternal gatekeeping models that fail to address the reciprocal nature of the process because mothers restrictive behaviors (a) can be in response to fathers behavior (Walker & McGraw, 2000) or (b) preventative in nature and designed to limit father involvement (Sano et al., 2008). Specically, Sano et al. (2008) suggested that mothers may want fathers involvement and that certain father behaviors (e.g., abuse of children, negative parental beliefs, engagement in dangerous behavior) trigger restrictions that mothers impose. On the contrary, Sano et al.

190 also suggested that mothers may invite fathers to be involved but that fathers unwillingness to do so results in less involvement. Our attempt here is to illuminate maternal gatekeeping while recognizing that both fathers and mothers inuence the process and outcomes. We offer two general examples of such reciprocity. The rst includes situations in which mothers open the gates for father involvement and fathers choose not to get involved, thereby illustrating the importance of father responsiveness to maternal behavior. Thus, a positive maternal behavior combined with a negative paternal response might appear to be maternal gatekeeping, when the father is primarily responsible for gatekeeping himself. Regardless of how open and inviting mothers are, if fathers do not step up, their own choices will limit their involvement. The second example includes situations in which mothers close the gate on father involvement but fathers exert themselves anyway. Fathers may be highly discouraged or controlled by mothers to remain at a distance; however, the fathers personal desire to be involved may be stronger than the mothers ability to keep him out. High-conict custodial battles may reect these types of situations, as fathers resort to legal action to overcome maternal gatekeeping. We suspect that this would likely occur when paternal identity is strong and when fathers desire to care for children is a focus in their lives (Adamsons, 2010). A Comment on Fathers Resistance In looking at fathers participation in families, we believe that it is important to challenge the assumption that fathers want to be involved with their children. Walker and McGraw (2000) suggested that fathers are responsible for their involvement and play an important role in maternal gatekeeping behavior. We agree that some fathers have no interest in being involved for various reasons (e.g., circumstances in which the child was born, fear of being a parent, coparental conict). These fathers may intentionally leave the parenting relationship through both their physical and psychological absence. In other cases, they may inadvertently nd themselves out of parenting, similar to passive gate snubbing (low control, low encouragement, high discouragement), where fathers organize their lives around other

Journal of Family Theory & Review activities that take precedence over childrearing, such as work or recreation. Still other fathers may actively resist or behave in ways that suggest resistance toward active engagement, such as avoiding child support or refusing to see the children. These fathers set themselves up for gatekeeping behaviors by making it easier for mothers to exert gatekeeping behaviors with a variety of potential outcomes depending on the strength of the resistance. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS In presenting an expanded model of maternal gatekeeping, we hope that scholars will adopt it in future research to explicate the effects of gatekeeping. We believe that our conceptualization gives scholars more precision and specicity about the complexity inherent in maternal gatekeeping and provides a framework for future studies. The next step is to construct a measure that adequately captures the dimensions outlined here and to determine whether such complexity occurs in family life. Existing national data sets, such as the Fragile Families Child Wellbeing Study and the Early Childhood Longitudinal ProgramBirth Cohort do not provide adequate indicators of these dimensions (Puhlman & Pasley, 2011). In making suggestions about possible items that reect the three dimensions, we borrow from prior research (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008) and offer our own suggestions. Sample items that might assess these dimensions prompt fathers with How often does she . . . Items reecting control include Stops you from interacting with the child, Sets the rules for how often you can interact with the child, and Allows you to take care of the child your own way. Sample items that reect encouragement include Asks you to help when she has difculty with the child, Asks your opinion about parenting, and Tells the child positive things about you. Items that reect discouragement include Interrupts your time with the child, Disagrees with you in front of the child, and Attempts to undermine your parenting decisions. Once a measure is available, we recommend several lines of research. One line addresses whether and how maternal gatekeeping inuences father involvement. Some speculate that maternal gatekeeping may not be related to father involvement (Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004) or that father involvement is the inuential force

Rethinking Maternal Gatekeeping on maternal gatekeeping (Walker & McGraw, 2000; Sano et al., 2008). Research using current models of maternal gatekeeping suggests that there is a modest relationship with father involvement (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2008); however, we must determine directionality and the strength of this relationship, and our expanded model allows for this by capturing the complexity of the process. Another line of research should explore the degree to which maternal gatekeeping is similar to or different from other coparenting processes (Holmes, Fagan, Schoppe-Sullivan, & Day, 2011). It is unclear the degree to which this process is associated with coparenting practices or represents a unique phenomenon that is related to other coparenting processes. Finally, we recommend that research on maternal gatekeeping address (a) how fathers respond to maternal gatekeeping behaviors to glean insight into the reciprocal nature of the process and (b) how fathers behaviors might initiate gatekeeping. Only in this way might research better inform policy and intervention strategies. An additional line of research should address how numerous family processes and individual characteristics inuence maternal gatekeeping, and we offer some suggestions here. Future research should look at how child characteristics, such as gender, temperament, and age, affect maternal gatekeeping behaviors. In addition to child characteristics, the inuence of certain mother and father traits may be important, as some scholars have identied personality characteristics (Cannon et al., 2008), religiosity (Gaunt, 2008), and maternal beliefs (Fagan & Barnett, 2003; McBride et al., 2005) as inuential to gatekeeping behaviors. We also suggest that research address how gatekeeping behaviors change over time and as a function of individual and family development. Last, research should consider how maternal gatekeeping is represented in different cultural contexts and whether and how such differences affect fathering specically and family interactions in general. Evidence shows that parenting and coparenting behaviors vary according to cultural expectations (McHale & Lindahl, 2011; Tamis-LeMonda, Wang, Koutsouvanou, & Albright, 2002), so this deserves our attention. Here we present maternal gatekeeping as a complex construct that accounts for a variety of ways of limiting and facilitating father involvement with children. We also provide

191 some explanation of the dynamic nature of interaction between parents as they attempt to raise children to the best of their ability. We intend that our expanded model of maternal gatekeeping and the examples provided here serve as the foundation for providing more clarity of the construct and the diversity of behaviors it represents. Our goal is to encourage other scholars to investigate the possible variations outlined here and their inuence on father involvement while recognizing the role that both mothers and fathers play in the process. NOTE
We express our gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Jay Fagan, Dr. Erin Holmes, and the anonymous JFTR reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

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