Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 11, 2016

Red Parents, Blue Parents: The Politics of Modern Parenthood

Laurel Elder and Steven Greene
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Over the past several decades the major parties in the US have not only politicized parenthood, but have come to offer increasingly polarized views of the ideal American family. This study builds on recent scholarship exploring the political impact of parenthood (e.g. Elder, Laurel, and Steven Greene. 2012a. The Politics of Parenthood: Causes and Consequences of the Politicization and Polarization of the American Family. Albany, NY: SUNY Press; Greenlee, Jill. 2014. The Political Consequences of Motherhood. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.) by comparing Republican and Democratic parents in terms of family structure as well as attitudes about parental roles and child rearing. This study draws on a fairly unique data set, the Pew Research Center’s Gender and Generations Survey, as well as more traditional data sets, to further our understanding of the politics of modern parenthood in the United States. We find that the starkly contrasted red families versus blue families painted in some research and news commentary does not hold up when examined with individual level data. On average, Republican and Democratic parents start their families at the same age and have the same number of kids. And despite the parties’ polarized messages about the ideal family structure, Republican moms are just as likely to be working as Democratic moms. Where partisanship does divide red and blue families is on attitudes about working mothers and perhaps most interestingly, when it comes to the way men conceptualize their roles and performance as fathers. Democratic dads possess more egalitarian attitudes about parenting and less authoritarian attitudes about child-rearing, and, perhaps because they expect more from themselves as care-givers, they struggle more with work-family balance and are less satisfied with themselves as parents. In contrast, Republican fathers embrace more traditional views about parenting and parental authority and rate themselves more highly as parents. This study concludes by exploring the implications of the politics of modern parenthood for the 2016 presidential election and beyond.

Appendix: Variables and Measures

Pew

Parent (qp1): 1 Indicates has children under 18; 0 otherwise

Ideal Home Situation for Children (ideal): Ideal working situation for R; 1 Full time, 2 part-time, 3 not at all.

Parent Quality (q25): Rate job one is doing as a parent from 1, poor, up to 5, excellent.

Child Responsibility (q42): 1 Spouse/other does most child-rearing; 2 shared child-rearing; 3 mostly performed by R.

Household Responsibility (q43): 1 Spouse/other mostly responsible for household; 2 shared responsibility; 3 mostly performed by R.

Prefer to Work (q44): 1 Prefer to work even though it takes R away from children; 0 prefer being home with children but needs the money from work.

Parent Time (q26a): 1 Too little, 2 right amount, 3 too much time with kids.

Right Time (q26a): R spends “right amount” of time with children.

Parent Compare (q26b): More, less, or same time with children as your parents did.

Children Best (q37): Best for children when mom is working full time, 1, part-time 2, not at all 3.

Mom Best (q38a): Best for mother when mom is working full time, 1, part-time 2, not at all 3.

Dad Best (q38a): Best for father when dad is working full time, 1, part-time 2, not at all 3.

Family Balance (q41): How difficult to balance work/family from 1 very difficult to 4 not at all difficult.

Married (qm1): 1 Indicates married; 0 otherwise.

Non-White (race3ma): 1 Indicates racial minority; 0 for non-Hispanic White.

Age (age): age in years.

Born Again (born): 1 Indicates respondent describes self as “born again”; 0 otherwise.

Education (Educ2): Highest level of education from 1, less than HS to 8, post-graduate degree.

Household Income (income): Household income in 9 categories from 1, lowest, to 9, highest.

Democrat (party/partyln): 1 Indicates Democrat or Independent leaning Democrat; 0 otherwise.

Independent (party/partyln): 1 Indicates pure Independent; 0 otherwise.

Employed (qe3): 1 Indicates currently working full or part time; 0 otherwise.

General Social Survey

Parent (childs, babies, preteen, teen): 1 Indicates has children under 18 living in home; 0 otherwise.

Married (marital): 1 Indicates married; 0 otherwise.

Employed (wrkstat): 1 Indicates currently working full or part time; 0 otherwise.

Number of Children (childs): Number of children R has had.

Age when First Child Born (agekdbrn): Age in years.

Kids are Life’s Greatest Joy (kidjoy): 5-Point scale from 1, strongly disagree, to 5, strongly agree.

National Election Studies

Authoritarian Parenting Index (auth_ind, auth_cur, auth_obed, auth_consid) whether respondent prefers among children that children are independent versus respect for elders, curiosity versus good manners, self-reliance versus obedience, and being well behaved versus being considerate. Mean of responses where variables are recoded 1 for respect, good manners, obedience, and well-behaved, and 0 otherwise.

References

Bianchi, Suzanne M., John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 2006. Changing Rhythms of American Family Life. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Search in Google Scholar

Brooks, David. 2006. “The New Red-Diaper Babies.” The New York Times, December 7, sec. A. Search in Google Scholar

Cahn, Naomi, and June Carbone. 2011. Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Carbone, June, and Naomi Cahn. 2014. Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family. New York: Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Carroll, Susan J. 1999. “The Disempowerment of the Gender Gap: Soccer Moms and the 1996 Election”. PS: Political Science and Politics 32: 7–12. Search in Google Scholar

Carroll, Susan J. 2008. “Security Moms and Presidential Politics: Women Voters in the 2004 Election.” Chapter in Voting the Gender Gap, edited by Lois Duke Whitaker, 75–90. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Search in Google Scholar

Cohn, Nate. 2015. “The Parent Agenda, The Emerging Democratic Focus.” The New York Times, February 10, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/upshot/the-parent-agenda-the-emerging-democratic-focus.html?abt=0002&abg=0. Search in Google Scholar

Colby, Sandra L., and Jennifer M. Ortman. 2014. Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060, Current Population Reports, P25-1143, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2014. Search in Google Scholar

De Parle, Jason, and Sabrina Tavernise. 2012. “For Women Under 3, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage.” The New York Times, February 17, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/us/for-women-under-30-most-births-occur-outside-marriage.html. Search in Google Scholar

Elder, Laurel, and Steven Greene. 2007. “The Myth of ‘Security Moms’ and ‘NASCAR Dads: Parenthood, Political Stereotypes, and the 2004 Election.” Social Science Quarterly 88 (1): 1–19. Search in Google Scholar

Elder, Laurel, and Steven Greene. 2008. “Parenthood and the Gender Gap.” Chapter in The Gender Gap: Voting and the Sexes, edited by Lois Duke Whitaker, 119–140. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. Search in Google Scholar

Elder, Laurel, and Steven Greene. 2012a. The Politics of Parenthood: Causes and Consequences of the Politicization and Polarization of the American Family. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Search in Google Scholar

Elder, Laurel, and Steven Greene. 2012b. “The Politics of Parenthood: Parenthood Effects on Issue Attitudes and Candidate Evaluations in 2008.” American Politics Research 40 (3): 418–448. Search in Google Scholar

Freeman, Jo. 1993. “Feminism vs. Family Values: Women at the 1992 Democratic and Republican Conventions.” PS: Political Science and Politics 26 (2): 21–28. Search in Google Scholar

Freeman, Jo. 1997. “Change and Continuity for Women at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.” The American Review of Politics 18 (Winter): 353–367. Search in Google Scholar

Gallagher, Sally K., and Naomi Gerstel. 2001. “Connections and Constraints: The Effects of Children on Caregiving.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 63: 265–275. Search in Google Scholar

Golberg, Wendy A., Erin Kelly, Nicole L. Matthews, Hannah Kang, Weilin Lim, and Mariya Sumaroka. 2012. “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Gender, Culture, and College Students’ Views about Work and Family.” Journal of Social Issues 68 (4): 814–837. Search in Google Scholar

Greenlee, Jill. 2010. “Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms and the Question of “Transformative” Motherhood.” Politics & Gender 6 (3): 405–432. Search in Google Scholar

Greenlee, Jill. 2014. The Political Consequences of Motherhood. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Search in Google Scholar

Harden, Blaine. 2007. “Numbers Drop for the Married With Children: Institution Becoming the Choice of the Educated, Affluent”. Washington Post. March 4, 2005. A3. Search in Google Scholar

Hays, Sharin. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Hetherington, Marc, and Jonathan D. Weiler. 2009. Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Howell, Susan E., and Christine L. Day. 2000. “Complexities of the Gender Gap.” The Journal of Politics 62: 858–874. Search in Google Scholar

Hunter, James Davison. 1991. Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. New York: Basic Books. Search in Google Scholar

Iversen, Torbin, and Frances Rosenbluth. 2006. “The Political Economy of Gender: Explaining Cross-national Variation in Household Bargaining, Divorce and the Gender Voting Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (1): 1–19. Search in Google Scholar

Judis, John B. 2008. “America the Liberal.” The New Republic, November 19, 2008. 20–22. Search in Google Scholar

Judis, John B., and Ruy Teixeira. 2002. The Emerging Democratic Majority. New York: Scribner Press. Search in Google Scholar

Kotkin, Joel, and William Frey. 2004. “Parent Trap”. The New Republic Online,www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?pt=sKzRTBxZkbnZ3RuM0cWdfh%3D%3D. Search in Google Scholar

Kroska, A., and C. Elman. 2009. “Change in Attitudes about Employed Mothers: Exposure, Interests, and Gender Ideology Discrepancies.” Social Science Research 38: 366–382. Search in Google Scholar

Kurtzleben, Danielle. 2014. “Democrats say Work-Life Balance is a Huge Problem. Republicans say it’s Fine.” Vox, November 14, 2014. http://www.vox.com/2014/11/14/7216033/work-life-balance-is-a-democrat-problem. Search in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George. 2002. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Search in Google Scholar

Libresco, Leah. 2015. “Here’s How Americans Spend Their Working, Relaxing and Parenting Time.” FiveThirtyEight. June 24, 2015. http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/heres-how-americans-spend-their-working-relaxing-and-parenting-time/. Search in Google Scholar

Matto, Elizabeth. 2005. “The Politicization of Motherhood: The Increase in Attention Paid to Mothers in Campaigns and the Effect on Interests of Women in General.” Paper presented at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Political Science Association. Philadelphia, PA. Search in Google Scholar

Monte, Lindsay M., and Renee R. Ellis. 2014. Fertility of Women in the United States: June 2012, Current Population Reports, P20-575. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Search in Google Scholar

Parker, Kim. 2015. “Working Mom Guilt? Many Dads Feel it too.” Pew Research Center, April 1, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/01/working-mom-guilt-many-dads-feel-it-too/. Search in Google Scholar

Pew Research Center. 2013a. Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2013/03/FINAL_modern_parenthood_03-2013.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

Pew Research Center. 2013b. “The New American Father.” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/14/the-new-american-father/. Search in Google Scholar

Roberts, Sam. 2007. “51% of Women Now Living Without a Spouse.” The New York Times. Search in Google Scholar

Sailer, Steve. 2004 “Baby Gap: How Birthrates Color the Electoral Map.” The American Conservative. Accessed February 8, 2005. 20 December. http://www.amconmag.com/2004_12_20/print/coverprint.html. Search in Google Scholar

Samsel, Emily. 2015. “Hilary Clinton advocates for paid family leave on Mother’s Day.” May 10, 2015. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/hillary-clinton-advocates-paid-family-leave-mothers-day. Search in Google Scholar

Sanbonmatsu, Kira. 2004. Democrats/Republicans and the Politics of Women’s Place. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Search in Google Scholar

Self, Robert O. 2012. All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s. New York: Hill and Wang. Search in Google Scholar

Walter, Amy. 2013. “Can Romney Convince Walmart Moms He’s Up to the Job?” ABC News, June 8, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/06/can-romney-convince-walmart-moms-hes-up-to-the-job/ (October 17, 2013). Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Wendy, and Kim Parker. 2014. “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married: As Values, Economics and Gender Patterns Change.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends project, September. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2014/09/2014-09-24_Never-Married-Americans.pdf. Search in Google Scholar

Wang, Wendy, Kim Parker, and Paul Taylor. 2013. “Breadwinner Moms”. Pew Research, May 19, 2013. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/05/29/breadwinner-moms/. Search in Google Scholar

Weisberg, Herbert F. 1987. “The Demographics of a New Voting Gap: Marital Differences in American Voting.” Public Opinion Quarterly 55: 335–343. Search in Google Scholar

Wolbrecht, Christina. 2000. The Politics of Women’s Rights. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Zitner, Aaron. 2016. “GOP Hopes for a Boost from ‘Security Moms.’ The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2016. http://on.wsj.com/1l9XuvI. Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2016-7-11
Published in Print: 2016-7-1

©2016 by De Gruyter