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Stereotypes of Stay-at-Home and Working Mothers

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Taking an initial step to empirically investigate cultural conjecture about stay-at-home mothers' (SAHMs') and working mothers’ (WMs') rivalry, the purpose of this study was to identify the content of stereotypes held for these subgroups of mothers. Through open-ended responses from SAHMs, WMs, and a broad non-parent sample, 5,523 traits of SAHMs and WMs emerged. Following coding procedures used in previous stereotype research (Hummert, Garstka, Shaner, & Strahm, 1994; Ruble & Zhang, 2013), the authors grouped the traits into 28 SAHM and 21 WM stereotype categories. The SAHM stereotype categories align with traditional views of womanhood, feminism, and family structure and reveal positive evaluations of mothering ability. Examples of the SAHM stereotype categories include: “domestic,” “caregiver,” “family-oriented,” and “ideal mom.” The WM stereotype categories align with non-traditional views of womanhood, motherhood, and family structure and reveal negative evaluations of mothering ability. Examples of the WM stereotype categories include: “determined,” “independent,” “work-focused,” and “substandard mom”. SAHM and WM stereotypes provide evidence for both stagnant and progressing ideals of women such that SAHMs are perceived as feminine, heterosexual housewives who are solely competent at mothering and WMs are perceived as independent, strong women who lack maternal instincts. Building on social identity (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) and subsequent theorizing (Cuddy, Fiske, & Glick, 2007), these results lay groundwork for further assessment of these stereotypes, particularly their prevalence, valence, and links to specific family and intergroup communication practices.

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Stereotypes of Stay-at-Home and Working Mothers

  1. 1. Stereotypes of Stay-at-Home and Working Mothers Stereotype Frequency SAHM WM Aimless 85 Balancing work, family, & life 97 Busy 68 179 Caregiver 131 17 Caring 174 26 Crafty 44 Dedicated 70 40 Determined 10 176 Domestic 391 27 Executives of the home 58 14 Family-oriented 81 9 Flexible 54 5 Happy 40 22 Hardworking 98 159 Has a lot of free time 111 Ideal Mom 61 29 Independent 9 68 Involved in children’s lives 145 19 Knowledgeable 12 64 Lazy 91 4 Loving 112 35 Multi-tasking 16 48 Nontraditional 7 122 Organized 61 57 Overbearing 62 2 Overextended 44 Overworked 50 68 Patient 41 4 Privileged 117 20 Selfish 7 55 Selfless 64 15 Short on time 56 Socially isolated 61 2 Stressed 33 106 Strong 24 55 Substandard Mom 56 Super Mom 16 54 Tired 41 86 Traditional 100 Uninvolved in children’s lives 80 Unknowledgeable 39 1 Warm 48 3 Work-focused 98 Kelly G. Odenweller & Christine E. RittenourWest Virginia University OBJECTIVE & RATIONALE MOTHERS (n= 350) •SAHMs (n= 121; 18.01%) and WMs (n= 223; 33.18%) •Ranged in age from 18 to 58 (M= 39.80, SD= 9.07) •Predominantly Caucasian (n= 311, 88.90%) •Majority were married (n= 297, 84.90%) •Majority had one to three children (n= 315, 90.00%) The final stereotype categories (i.e., 28 about SAHMs and 21 about WMs) encompassed a wide range of femininityand feminismby highlighting traditional and nontraditional ideas of womanhood, motherhood, and family structure. These stereotypes have implications for mothers’ identities, family relationships, and communication within and between mother groups. Note. These are the most frequent stereotypes that emerged in the data either as mentioned by 10% of the overall sample (i.e., 67 stereotypes) or as determined by binominal critical frequency values of 37 for stay-at-home mother stereotypes and 39 for working mother stereotypes. Forty-eight stereotypes were removed from this table due to low frequencies: Bossy, Captivating, Catty, Cold, Common, Competitive, Concerned about appearances, Confident, Cooperative, Dependable, Dependent, Devalued, Emotional, Energetic, Fun, Guilt-ridden, High-strung, Homely, Humble, Important, Insecure, Married, Mom, Non-domestic, Obedient, Obligated, Old, Outsources child care, Passionate, Poor, Rational, Respectful, Responsible, Sad, Scattered, Self-righteous, Shopper, Single, Social, Sophisticated, Strict, Supportive, Teacher of Values, Thrifty, Timid, Unfaithful, Unreliable, Volunteer. In an online experiment using these stereotypes and stereotype profiles uncovered in a follow- up study (currently revising for resubmission at a top-tier journal), my dissertation seeks to demonstrate the effects of communicated stereotypes on SAHMs’ and WMs’ attitudes, intergroup anxiety, emotional responses, behaviors, and willingness to communicate with the outgroup mother. Additionally, drawing upon the common ingroupidentity model (CIIM; Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust, 1993), my dissertation aims to isolate the effects of transformations to the social categorization process on SAHMs’ and WMs’ intergroup attitudes and communication by manipulating computer-mediated messages ostensibly submitted from an outgroup mother. NON-PARENTS (n= 322) •Mostly females (n= 222, 68.90%) •Ranged in age from 18 to 60 (M= 21.47, SD= 4.70) •Predominantly Caucasian (n= 260, 80.70%) •Majority were single (n= 193, 59.90%) METHODS RQ RESULTS Although fathers play a pivotal role in both work and family spheres (Duckworth & Buzzanell, 2009; Lamb, 2010), “mother” represents a social category appropriate for intergroup inquiry due to the salience of mothers’ social identities, societal scrutiny associated with the mothering role, and intergroup relationships among subgroups of women. First, most mothers consider “mother” to be their central, if not primary, social identity (Arendell, 2000; Graham, Sorell, & Montgomery, 2004), reporting more satisfaction with parenting than fathers report and ranking parenting as more important than their marriages or occupations (Rogers & White, 1998). Second, societal scrutiny of mothers’ private and public gender roles renders motherhood a socially constructed, intergroup context (Garey, 1999; Palomares, 2012). Third, employment circumstances thrust mothers into dichotomized (sub)groups that mainstream society claims are fraught with intergroup tensions. Taking an initial step to empirically investigate cultural conjecture about stay-at-home mothers’ (SAHMs’) and working mothers’ (WMs’) rivalry, the purpose of this study was to identify the content of stereotypes held for these subgroups of mothers by these mothers and society at large. TAKE AWAYS… …THAT INFORM MY DISSERATION ANALYSES In accordance with Hummert, Garstka, Shaner, and Strahm(1994) and Ruble and Zhang (2013), the authors collaboratively compiled the 5,523 traits provided by participants into categories of SAHM and WM stereotypes via the following four steps: 1.Identical or synonymous traits (e.g., “homemaker,” “housewife,” “housekeeper,” “maid,” “takes care of household chores”) were collapsed into more inclusive categories (e.g., “domestic”). 2.Comparative words and phrases (e.g., “better mom than working mother,” “the better way to raise children,” “their children gain more from them being home”) were subsumed under relevant categories (e.g., “ideal mom”). 3.Upon further consideration of the original categories, those appearing to represent similar themes (e.g., “lucky,” “wealthy,” and “spoiled”), regardless of incongruent valences, were further collapsed into superordinate categories (e.g., “privileged”). 4.Vague or non-trait descriptors (e.g., “great,” “babies,” “ramen noodles”) and descriptors that diverged from the instructions (e.g., “I hate kids;” “different as snowflakes, all have different motivations and situation at home;” “I know several stay at home mothers, no two are exactly the alike”) were removed. PROCEDURES Based on procedures used by Hummert, Garstka, Shaner, and Strahm(1994) and Ruble and Zhang (2013), stereotype content was assessed via two open-ended questions—one for SAHMs and one for WMs. Because mothers—and women in general—have historically occupied an inferior position within patriarchal society and experienced scrutiny for their mothering/career aspirations (Arendell, 2000; Dillaway& Pare, 2008), it is likely that the content of mothers’ stereotypes reflect a wide array of societal attributes. RQ: What is the content of stereotypes held about stay-at-home and working mothers held by stay-at-home mothers, working mothers, and society at large? As group members recount the traits they perceive in themselves and others, these ‘truths’ consistently reveal more complex and diverse perceptions about one’s ingroup as compared perceptions of outgroupmembers (Oakes, 2008). H: Stay-at-home and working mothers will hold more stereotypes for their respective ingroup than they hold for the outgroup? STEREOTYPES: Overgeneralized, exaggerated beliefs about social groups’ characteristics and behaviors that help individuals categorize, form opinions, and rationalize their behavior toward individuals and groups (Allport, 1954; Lippman, 1922). INSTRUCTIONS TO PARTICIPANTS: Describe typical traits of SAHMs/WMs using as many words or phrases you associate or have heard others associate with SAHMs/WMs regardless if they consider these descriptions to be accurate representations of these social groups. MOMMY WARS Tallying results •SAHM participants: 635 about SAHM, 454 about WMs •WM participants: 886 about SAHMs, 823 about WMs T-test results •SAHM participants: stereotypes about ingroup(M= 5.25, SD= 3.69, mode = 4, range = 1-25) significantly greater than stereotypes for outgroup(M= 3.75, SD= 2.43, mode = 3, range = 1-15), t(119) = 6.74, p < .001. •WM participants: stereotypes about outgroup(M= 3.97, SD= 2.27, mode = 3, range = 1-13) significantly greater than stereotypes for ingroup(M= 3.69, SD= 2.02, mode = 3, range = 1-14), t(222) = 2.54, p = .01. Thus, the hypothesis (H) was partially supported. H RESULTS

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