The Politics of Parenthood: Mom and Dad Don’t See Eye to Eye

Over the last few election seasons, we have been treated/subjected to the shallow labeling and pigeonholing that comes with terms like “soccer moms,” “security moms,” and “NASCAR dads.” There are assuredly more terms to bandy about (some less flattering than others) but the whole idea behind corralling these vast groups of people/parents into generalized groups with catchy monikers, is the notion that they (these parental voting blocks) all hold comparable political beliefs. In someway, shape, or form, parenthood (and specifically the type of parenting you engage in) definitively informs your political belief system. Parenting has become politicized.

Now comes sociological research out of North Carolina State University that asserts that the role of parenthood is moving mothers and fathers in opposite directions on political issues surrounding social welfare, education, and the very timely subject of health care. From data gathered from the recent 2008 presidential election, researchers noticed a trend revealing mothers moving toward a more liberal line of thinking, whereas fathers were decidedly more conservative. “Parenthood seems to heighten the political ‘gender gap,’ with women becoming more liberal and men more conservative when it comes to government spending on social welfare issues,” says Dr. Steven Greene, an associate professor of political science at North Carolina State and co-author of the study.

Now the details of the study are brief (to say the least) but the theory presented here suggests that the sheer act of parenting moves men and women in vastly different ways. Women, according to this study, become more permissive and compassionate, whereas men become more resolute and less broadminded when it comes to the social issues associated with social welfare, health care and education.

So this information predictably brings forth a few questions: By assuming the responsibilities of parenthood, are we also subtly (or not so subtly) changing our worldview? Does this ideological fissure represent foreseeable problems between mother and father in the near future? Or can this break be seen as consistent with other gender gap issues? How does this political spilt affect the children? And lastly (I had to ask), are same sex parents immune to this issue/phenomenon?

I, along with all of our fellow Care2 readers, would love to read what you have to say.

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

May Howie
may H6 years ago


Suzanne H.
Suzanne H6 years ago

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I am not married. I don't want to argue every day with my man.

megan m.
megan m8 years ago

I don't think same-sex parents would be immune because its more about the role-mentality that is usually associated with gender than with actual gender itself :
Nurturers are generally women as they are biologically more bonded with their children (pregnancy) and in wanting to make sure everyone is happy and getting along, they tend to become more lax.
Breadwinners, typically the men, tend to get stricter as they are *generally* the ones who bring home more money so they take it more personally when over spending takes place and also want to teach their kids more independence.

Every same sex couple I've known seems to generally have one person who is more feminine and one who is more masculine, no matter the gender. So therefore, I would think that these families would face much the same issues because the same general role-mentalities (i.e. nurturer and breadwinner) are there.

Of course, like the article, these are just generalities. I recognize that there are many different kinds of family structures out there.

Ken G.
Ken G8 years ago

I have my own very unpopular concept on this subject. Every female that's been in my life has been very controlling and manipulating, but I firmly believe "It takes a woman to make a man." My firmness about this came from my own relationships which were formed with sex. That to me was used to control and manipulate me which again is definitely not the problem. The problem is that I enabled myself to be controlled and manipulated and that did not earn trust and respect necessary for a decent relationship.
I actually consider this to apply to politics also as I see politicians control and manipulate regardless of gender and that fails to earn trust and respect necessary for any security in our relationship with them.
I know in my own life a wife and daughters brought more masculinity to life than anybody else ever did. I think this is a subject that is misunderstood in our society.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

Sarah S.
Sarah S.8 years ago

David I find it extremely interesting that you talk about the dangers of stereotyping (which I completely agree with) and yet you make such a generalized statement as "parents should be held responcible for all their own births costs and continued costs. This would curb unwanted pregnancies tremendously." In a perfect world this would be the situation yet, as you so astutely highlight, we do not live in a perfect world, so of course there will be people who are going to need help with the costs associated with child care. And in no way shape or form would that curb any sort of pregnancies. Never has in the hundreds of thousands of years past and won't in the future.

Anyhoo...of course having children changes the way parents think and view the world. Again, this is not new just because a study came out! This is one of the reason couples break up in the first few years after having kids; they begin to think differently than they did pre-kids and their new world-views don't always mesh!

Barbara L.
B. L8 years ago

David Harmon,

It bothers you that we live in a stereotyping atmosphere & yet ... you say "We need to realize we both (genders) have a place and function."

By saying we should "stick to our place & function," you are saying "stick to your stereotypes." Hypocrisy rears its ugly head.

My disappointment with this article is that I was hoping to get some insight on HOW TO HANDLE the gap when parents don't agree. We often disagree on how to discipline our children & definitely could use some hints.

Michele Hanson
Michele H8 years ago

I'm happy to say that my husband is extremely sensitive to the needs of people who want a better life for themselves and their children--which includes the many who have recently lost their jobs. From him (and me), our child has learned to have compassion for those not as fortunate as we are. If this is political, then it is the politics of encouraging fairness and creating opportunity.

Irvn R.
Irvn R8 years ago

Men can be bitches, women can be ass-holes .. as long as men make more than women perhaps it seems elemental that they will care how much is wasted in taxes, and yes, yes, it is wasted on salaries and transfer payments

David Harmon
David Harmon8 years ago

This is a waste of time. Ladies who have children always want more welfare / healthcare spending. I feel parents should be held responcible for all their own births costs and continued costs. This would curb unwanted pregnancies tremendously. As far as the male situation, I dont doubt in todays society they do become conservitive. It's almost illegal to conduct yourself as a MALE with MALE traits in todays world of wanted MALE/FEMALE rolls in 1 . The idea of same sex relationships over the differant sex relations is readily accepted MORE than the latter. As for the female direction growing apart from her partner, WELL when ladies refer to their children, House, etc. AS THEIRS ONLY in conversation without stating OURs, there is a Problem to begin with before any children. This starts with society, Groups and parenting for them. The anti- male idea is exstream and self distructive in this country. It is breeding violence and hate. We need to realize we both (genders) have a place and function and its not some Design by some disgruntled Psychologist/ Psychiatrist moron looking for some reason why he thinks he was cheated in life as a child. Its in our DNA designed. All men are not PIGs, All ladies are Not Bitches. However, we are in a complete STEREO-TYPING atmosphere based on societies design for confusion, control and deception. WAKE UP PEOPLE. Male and Female are differant for a reason. It does not work when you try to change that design.