Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 1073–1080 | Cite as

Mother, Father, or Parent? College Students’ Intensive Parenting Attitudes Differ by Referent

  • Holly H. Schiffrin
  • Miriam Liss
  • Katherine Geary
  • Haley Miles-McLean
  • Taryn Tashner
  • Charlotte Hagerman
  • Kathryn Rizzo
Original Paper


Although intensive parenting is considered a dominant ideology of child-rearing, the tenets have only recently been operationalized. The Intensive Parenting Attitudes Questionnaire (IPAQ) was designed to assess the prescriptive norms of how people should parent and includes scales assessing the ideas that parenting is fulfilling, but challenging, and should be child-centered, involve intellectual stimulation, and is best done by women. The original IPAQ refers to parents, rather than mothers or fathers specifically, and was developed and validated on both women who were and were not mothers. The current investigation was designed to determine (a) whether women hold stronger intensive parenting beliefs than men and (b) whether answers on the IPAQ would vary depending on whether the referent was a mother, a father, or a parent. Participants included 322 male and female college students who were randomly assigned to receive one of three versions of the IPAQ referring either to mother, father, or parent. A main effect for sex indicated that female students held more intensive parenting beliefs than male students. A main effect for version indicated that referring to fathers led to more intensive attitudes than referring to mothers on the Child-Centered and Fulfillment scales, but parenting was rated as more Challenging than fathering. Whether the emphasis on father involvement found in the present investigation will translate into actual paternal involvement once participants have children is discussed.


Intensive mothering ideology Parenting Father involvement Sex differences Family roles Intensive parenting attitudes scale 


  1. Alberts, J. K., Tracy, S. J., & Trethewey, A. (2011). An integrative theory of the division of domestic labor: Threshold level, social organizing and sensemaking. Journal of Family Communication, 11, 21–38. doi: 10.1080/15267431.2011.534334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, S. M., & Hawkins, A. J. (1999). Maternal gatekeeping: Mothers’ beliefs and behaviors that inhibit greater father involvement in family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 199–212. doi: 10.2307/353894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. Arendell, T. (2000). Conceiving and investigating motherhood: The decade’s scholarship. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1192–1207. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01192.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Askari, S. F., Liss, M., Erchull, M. J., Staebell, S. E., & Axelson, S. J. (2010). Men want equality, but women don’t expect it: Young adults’ expectations for participation in household and child care chores. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 243–252. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2010.01565.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blair-Loy, M. (2003). Competing devotions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bradley, R. H. (1998). In defense of parental investment. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60, 791–795. doi: 10.2307/353547.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradley, R. H., Whiteside-Mansell, L., Brisby, J. A., & Caldwell, B. M. (1997). Parents’ socioemotional investment in children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 59, 77–90. doi: 10.1177/0891243211417433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cassano, M., Adrian, M., Veits, G., & Zeman, J. (2006). The inclusion of fathers in the empirical investigation of child psychopathology: An update. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35, 583–589. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3504_10.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chesley, N. (2011). Stay-at-home fathers and breadwinning mothers: Gender, couple dynamics, and social change. Gender & Society, 25, 642–664. doi: 10.1177/0891243211417433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Choi, P., Henshaw, C., Baker, S., & Tree, J. (2005). Supermum, superwife, supereverything: Performing femininity in the transition to motherhood. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 23, 167–180. doi: 10.1080/02646830500129487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  13. Coltrane, S. (2000). Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1208–1233. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01208.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cowan, C., & Cowan, P. (1988). Who does what when partners become parents: Implications for men, women, and marriage. Marriage and Family Review, 12, 105–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dew, J., & Wilcox, W. B. (2011). If momma ain’t happy: Explaining declines in marital satisfaction among new mothers. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dillaway, H., & Paré, E. (2008). Locating mothers: How cultural debates about stay-at-home versus working mothers define women and home. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 437–464. doi: 10.1177/0192513X07310309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fagan, J., & Barnett, M. (2003). The relationship between maternal gatekeeping, paternal competence, mothers’ attitudes about the father role, and father involvement. Journal of Family Issues, 24(8), 1020–1043. doi: 10.1177/0192513X03256397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fetterolf, J. C., & Eagly, A. H. (2011). Do young women expect gender equality in their future lives? An answer from a possible selves experiment. Sex Roles, 65, 83–93. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9981-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friedman, M. (2008). “Everything you need to know about your baby”. Feminism and attachment parenting. In J. Nathanson & L. C. Tuley (Eds.), Mother knows best: Talking back to the “Experts”. Toronto, ON: Demeter Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gaunt, R. (2008). Maternal gatekeeping: Antecedents and consequences. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 373–395. doi: 10.1177/0192513X070307851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guendouzi, J. (2005). “The guilt thing”: Balancing domestic and professional roles. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 901–909. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00303.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hays, S. (1998). The fallacious assumptions and unrealistic prescriptions of attachment theory: A comment on “parents’ socioemotional investment in children”. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60, 782–790. doi: 10.2307/353546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hochschild, A. R., & Machung, A. (1989). The second shift. New York: Avon Books.Google Scholar
  25. Johnston, C., & Mash, E. (1989). A measure of parenting satisfaction and efficacy. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 18, 167–175. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp1802_8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnston, D. D., & Swanson, D. H. (2003). Undermining mothers: A content analysis of the representation of mothers in magazines. Mass Communication & Society, 6, 243–265. doi: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0603_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnston, D., & Swanson, D. (2006). Constructing the “good mother”: The experience of mothering ideologies by work status. Sex Roles, 54, 509–519. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9021-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Katz-Wise, S. L., Priess, H. A., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). Gender-role attitudes and behavior across the transition to parenthood. Developmental Psychology, 46, 18–28.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liss, M., Schiffrin, H. H., Mackintosh, V. H., Miles-McLean, H., & Erchull, M. J. (2012). Development and validation of a quantitative measure of intensive parenting attitudes. Journal of Child and Family Studies. doi:  10.1007/s10826-012-9616-y.
  30. Phares, V., & Compas, B. E. (1992). The role of fathers in child and adolescent psychopathology: Make room for Daddy. Psychological Bulletin, 111, 387–412. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.111.3.387.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rizzo, K. M., Schiffrin, H. H., & Liss, M. (2012). Insight into the Parenthood Paradox: Mental health outcomes of intensive mothering. The Journal of Child and Family Studies,. doi: 10.1007/s10826-012-9615-z.Google Scholar
  32. Schroeder, K. A., Blood, L. L., & Maluso, D. (1993). Gender differences and similarities between male and female undergraduate students regarding expectations for career and family roles. College Student Journal, 27, 237–249.Google Scholar
  33. Shows, C., & Gerstel, N. (2009). Fathering, class, and gender: A comparison of physicians and emergency medical technicians. Gender & Society, 23, 161–187. doi: 10.1177/0891243209333872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stone, L., & McKee, N. P. (2000). Gendered futures: Student visions of career and family on a college campus. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 31, 67–89. doi: 10.1525/aeq.2000.31.1.67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tummala-Narra, P. (2009). Contemporary impingements on mothering. The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 69, 4–21. doi: 10.1057/ajp.2008.37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Foster, C. A. (2003). Parenthood and marital satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 574–583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wall, G. (2010). Mothers’ experiences with intensive parenting and brain development discourse. Women’s Studies International Forum, 33, 253–263. doi: 10.1016/j.wsif.2010.02.019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wall, G., & Arnold, S. (2007). How involved is fathering? An exploration of the contemporary culture of fatherhood. Gender & Society, 21, 508–527. doi: 10.1177/0891243207304973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zhou, L. (2006). American and Chinese college students’ anticipations of their postgraduate education, career, and future family roles. Sex Roles, 55, 95–110. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9063-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zuckerman, M., Hodgins, H. S., Zuckerman, A., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Contemporary issues in the analysis of data: A survey of 551 psychologists. Psychological Science, 4, 49–53. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1993.tb00556.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holly H. Schiffrin
    • 1
  • Miriam Liss
    • 1
  • Katherine Geary
    • 1
  • Haley Miles-McLean
    • 1
  • Taryn Tashner
    • 1
  • Charlotte Hagerman
    • 1
  • Kathryn Rizzo
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA

Personalised recommendations