Men and family
Chapter 7 argued that hegemonic masculinity defines men according to their formal paid jobs, and that this is problematic not only because changes in employment patterns make this prescribed role harder to maintain, but also because this rigid definition reduces men's capacity to choose to be actively involved in family life. Many men who would prefer a more active role in their families have little idea of how to achieve this, and whatever their spoken preferences, families find it difficult to avoid the traditional division of labour, despite evidence that this reduces the quality of men's relationships with partners and children (for example Hawkins et al. 1993).
This chapter reviews evidence on the roles of men in families, focusing on men as fathers and on the effects on men of relationship breakdown. Changes in social structures mean that men's family experiences are increasingly central to their identities. This chapter, like the last, points to the asymmetries between expectations for men and for women. It also points to the contradictions between traditional patriarchal expectations for men and contemporary egalitarian expectations for couples. In the family as in the workforce, men are caught in a structural dilemma in which any choice will be less than ideal. Once again, however, stereotypes of appropriate gender-based behaviours and interests appear to have influenced mainstream research agendas. Thus, mothering and motherhood have been subjected to intense scrutiny while with few exceptions (for example Thomas 1994) the parenting experiences of men have been largely ignored.
Contemporary psychological theorists generally reject models (for example Deutsch 1947; Bowlby 1951) that explicitly adopt, and treat as selfevidently true, the unsubstantiated social myths which underlie essentialist models of gender difference: myths such as men's inability to provide childcare and women's psychological need for parenthood. But the psychological literature continues to be based on an implicit assumption that men's relationships with their families are peripheral and largely unnecessary, and