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Maternal Role In Childrearing

Mothers are likely to be a constant presence throughout their children's lives. Mothers frequently refer to the use of common sense and intuition in raising children—as if no special knowledge is required and as if many of their practices are grounded in some biological instinct. However, almost all mothers admit that they seek at least some explicit advice on how to raise their children. Childrearing manuals are one of the most important sources of advice. These advice books for mothers, to a large extent, represent cultural expectations for motherhood. For example, in a cross-cultural study comparing mothering books in Japan and the United States, Arlie Russell-Hochschild and Kazuko Tanaka (1997) found that compared to their U.S. counterparts, Japanese advice books emphasize collective life such as rites and rituals, whereas U.S. books focus more on individual aspects of childrearing. Further, it was found that Japanese books praise mothers for their attention to beauty, deference, and motherliness whereas U.S. books praise women for their creativity and brilliance in mothering.

With respect to styles of parenting, an attentive and hands-on approach is reported to be more common among mothers than fathers. For example, a six-nation study on children and their parents found whereas fathers are more likely to be involved in intrinsically fun activities with children, such as playing or taking a walk with them, mothers are often involved in routine care of children such as bathing, changing, and helping with homework ( Japanese Association for Women's Education 1995). According to this study, 64 percent of parents in the United States reported that providing meals and feeding children are mainly the responsibility of the mother. The figures reported in other countries were 88.3 percent ( Japan), 58 percent (Korea), 65.3 percent (Thailand), 75.5 percent (UK), and 67.4 percent (Sweden). Among various parental activities included in the survey, fathers in all of the aforementioned countries are most likely to report "playing with children" as one of their major parental roles.

Different styles of interaction with children between mothers and fathers are reflected by children's affection toward their parents. In a comparative study, it was found that children report liking and respecting their fathers more than their mothers. This may be due to the infrequent father-child interaction and children's "idealizing" of fathers' roles (Ishii-Kuntz 1993). Despite these findings, mothers continue to influence their children in numerous ways and mothering styles are affected by several demographic and psychological factors surrounding mothers. Using a sample of working- and middle-class African-American mothers, Cheryl Bluestone and Catherine Tamis-LeMonda (1999) found that maternal education contributed to child-centered parenting, and that maternal depression was negatively associated with child-centered parenting styles. In Japan, mothers' childcare stress and anxiety were found to negatively influence the child's social development (Makino 1988).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodMotherhood - Transition To Motherhood, Maternal Role In Childrearing, Extent And Effects Of Maternal Employment, Motherhood And Marital Quality