Modern Fathers in Modern Family: The Impact of Generational Differences on Fatherhood Styles

  • Kathryn Pallister


With a name like Modern Family, the ABC television show that debuted in 2009 telegraphed its intent to represent families in a way that accurately reflects contemporary constructions of family life, and, in doing so, provided an opportunity for society to revise its notion of what a “family” might look like, due in part to the parenting styles of the fathers in the program. In a recent review of Modern Family, journalist Tim Dowling notes that “one of the main complaints voiced by so-called men’s rights activists is that in popular culture husbands and fathers are routinely portrayed as moronic incompetents … More sensible men’s advocates, meanwhile, maintain that men are still straitjacketed by old expectations, and given no room to express vulnerability, doubt, or any emotion besides anger. Masculinity, it seems, just doesn’t furnish the modern male with very many acceptable ways to be.”1 While Dowling goes on to address the show’s portrayal of Phil as the most “subversive” of the four fathers, the characters of Jay, Cam, and Mitchell also contribute to a mediated understanding of fatherhood that legitimizes a variety of “acceptable ways to be” a modern father. Through the vehicle of comedy, which exposes each of the characters’ best and worst qualities, viewers can both witness and interrogate the qualities of the “traditional dad” and the “new dad,” a distinction that emerges quite clearly as a new generation of men take the parenting reins from their own fathers.


Parenting Style Baby Boomer Modern Family Authoritarian Parenting Style Permissive Parenting Style 


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© Kathryn Pallister 2016

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  • Kathryn Pallister

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