The double bind of caregiving: Representation of gendered emotion in American advice literature

Stephanie A. Shields, Pamela Steinke, Beth A. Koster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Parent advice books written for the traditional, intact biological family represent maternal and paternal emotion quite differently from one another [S. A. Shields and B. A. Koster (1989) "Emotional Stereotyping of Parents in Child-Rearing Manuals," Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 52, pp. 44-55]. This study examined gender-specific references to emotion in advice books directed to adoptive parents, step-parents, single parents, and married couples in order to determine the relationship between beliefs about women's and men's emotional "natures" and beliefs about caregiving. The gendered representation of caregivers' emotion is remarkably consistent across time, parenting genre, and author characteristics. Books directed to parents portray women as at risk for excessive emotions (both positive and negative) that have negative developmental impact on the child. In contrast, men are largely encouraged to be emotionally expressive, and when they are cautioned about their emotional display, the caution is restricted to negative emotions that are elicited by external emotional hazards: the children, the spouse (or ex-spouse), or the situation. In contrast, marriage manuals portray spouses as mutually responsible for their own and their spouse's emotional well-being. Husbands and wives are encouraged to express unlimited positive emotion and to engage in moderated ventilation of negative emotion. In our discussion of these results we consider the role of emotion representation in promoting a culture of mother blaming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-488
Number of pages22
JournalSex Roles
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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