Raising Your Child's Inner Self-Esteem: The Authoritative Guide from Infancy through the Teen Years

By Karen Owens | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Father's Role
in the Childrearing and
Domestic Domains

Fatherhood, history reminds us, is a cultural invention. Michael Pleck of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign notes that from colonial times through the early nineteenth century, mothers provided most of the caregiving chores, much as they do today. 1 Fathers, nonetheless, were thought to have more influence on their children, particularly in the moral domain. Fathers were viewed as the family's ultimate source of moral teaching. The emphasis on father's influence was rooted in this period's conceptions of the nature of men and women, namely, that men were thought to have superior reason, which made them less likely than women to be misled by "passions" and "affections."

During the nineteenth century, new conceptions of fathers arose. Fathers were seen as playing an indirect role in the parenting process while women played a greater role. Mothers were thought to have a special influence on infants and young children. Fathers were viewed as distant breadwinners. This image was brought about, in part, by the Industrial Revolution, which meant that fathers were separated from their wives and families for a considerable part of each day. Fathers, however, continued to set the official standard of morality and to be the final arbiters of family discipline. Fathers were often respected but feared and remained invisible, distant, and aloof in their parenting roles.

By the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth, maleness was defined more and more in terms of ambition and achievement. There was a change in the social environment: work experience and domestic experience became even more distinct for greater and greater numbers of men. Moreover, the late nineteenth century brought the first great boom in suburban living, as street railways (and later buses and private automobiles) opened new vistas to com-

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