American Sociological Association

Using Identity Processes to Understand Persistent Inequality in Parenting

Despite growing acceptance of a "new fatherhood" urging fathers to be engaged in family life, men’s relative contributions to housework and child care have remained largely stagnant over the past twenty years. Using data from in-depth interviews, we describe how identity processes may contribute to this persistent inequality in parenting. We propose that the specificity of men’s identity standards for the father role is related to role-relevant behavior, and that the vague expectations many associate with "new fatherhood" both contribute to and result from men’s underinvolvement. Consistent with this proposal, we find that while all fathers face difficulty living up to expectations of "new fatherhood," those with vague identity standards contribute less to carework and are less committed to the father identity, in part because they are less likely to experience self-discrepancy. We outline the implications of our results for future research in identity theory and for understanding inequality in households.

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Jessica L. Collett, Kelcie Vercel, and Olevia Boykin





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