What is it about?

Over the years, there has been a lot of research on stereotypes about men and women in general, but far less about stereotypes about men and women when we know their parenting status. We surveyed people to find out what words they most associated with men and women who were parents, childless-by-choice, or childless with no specified reason. We had a couple of key findings. Compared to childless-by-choice men, fathers were rated higher on positive communal traits (like being warm and patient) and lower on negative agentic traits (like being arrogant and stubborn). The results for women were a bit more complex. Compared to childless-by-choice women, mothers were rated higher on positive communal traits, as well as higher on negative communal traits (such as emotional and yielding). Mothers were also rated lower than childless-by-choice women on positive agentic traits, like being decisive or self-reliant. On the whole, parenthood changes the stereotypes of men differently than it does for women.

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Why is it important?

Understanding stereotypes related to parenting status have broad implications for the psychology of the family, as well as for the social perception of gender and gender-related subtypes.


I see many opportunities to extend what we know about stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination to social groups that have been understudied in this regard, such as those related to parenting status, mental and physical health, and age.

Professor Richard J. Contrada
Rutgers The State University of New Jersey

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Gender stereotypes and parental status: A comparison of fathers, mothers, and the childless-by-choice., Psychology of Men & Masculinity, January 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/men0000311.
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