Examining the Culture of Fatherhood in American Children's Literature: Presence, Interactions, and Nurturing Behaviors of Fathers in Caldecott Award Winning Picture Books (1938-2002)

By Flannery, Suzanne M. | Fathering, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Examining the Culture of Fatherhood in American Children's Literature: Presence, Interactions, and Nurturing Behaviors of Fathers in Caldecott Award Winning Picture Books (1938-2002)


Flannery, Suzanne M., Fathering


This research examines the cultural scenarios of American fatherhood by measuring father presence and interactions with children in Caldecott award winning picture books from 1938 to 2002. Comparisons of fathers and mothers are measured and examined for changes over time. Fathers are found to be present in relatively the same number of books as mothers yet are depicted as engaging in significantly fewer interactions with children than mothers. The 1960s were found to be a period of time in which changes occurred in the presence of fathers in the books, supporting prior research which posits a "shifting" pattern in fatherhood imagery. This study also finds concurrence with a "fluctuating" pattern of changes in the culture of fatherhood in media with regard to father interactions. Further, findings point to the possibility of a "new father" image occurring during the 1980s.

Keywords: fatherhood, culture of fatherhood, American culture, children's literature, children's culture

The purpose of this research is to examine the social constructions of fatherhood in contemporary American culture via a content analysis of children's literature. Specifically, the aim of this project is to contribute to the continuing dialogue in the "changing culture of fatherhood" line of inquiry. The culture of fatherhood refers to the "norms, values, beliefs, and expressive symbols pertaining to fatherhood" (LaRossa et al., 2000, p. 375). Family scholars interested in these constructs have sought to discover and document how fathers are portrayed in a variety of popular American media such as single-panel cartoons (Day & Mackey, 1986; LaRossa, Gordon, Wilson, Bairan, & Jaret, 1991, LaRossa, Jaret, Gadgil, & Wynn, 2000), magazine articles (Atkinson & Blackwelder, 1993), and television commercials (Coltrane & Allen 1994) via the methods of content analysis. The images of fathers in culture are of particular interest because they may "affect the social reality of fatherhood" (LaRossa et al., 2000) and possibly influence the expectations that participants in culture have for the role of a father.

LaRossa et al. (2000) explain that, taken together, the research involved in this line of inquiry supported that there has been a change in the culture of fatherhood but did not agree on how much of a change had occurred, when the change occurred, or how the change could be characterized in terms of linear shifts or oscillating fluctuations. A component of the complexity of this dialogue is due to the use of diverse media, differing points in time for analyses, contrasting approaches to the problem, and the use of a range of variables related to the (changing) roles of fathers. Table 1 provides a brief sketch of the major studies involved in examining the changing culture of fatherhood.

Of particular interest to social scientists are the intersections of cultural and possibly symbolic phenomena with historical events and patterns. For example, Atkinson and Blackwelder (1993) compare the cultural definition of fathering evidenced in magazine articles from 1900 to 1989 with fertility rates and married women's labor-force participation, finding an association between higher fertility rates and cultural definitions of fathers as providers.

Current culture-of-fatherhood researchers have provided clear rationales for why comics, magazine articles, and television commercials are meaningful sources of information about fathers in mainstream American culture. These media are easily accessible to a broad range of readers/consumers and are tools of communication driven by a sense of shared understandings and motivations to connect the reader to the message. The artifacts that have been examined are possible sources of role identity information for male parents and may provide a model of fathering behaviors that people may assume is the norm. These studies have taken an anthropological and historical approach and thus have called for further examination of a broader range of artifacts to build greater understanding of fathers in culture.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Examining the Culture of Fatherhood in American Children's Literature: Presence, Interactions, and Nurturing Behaviors of Fathers in Caldecott Award Winning Picture Books (1938-2002)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.