Women mimic their own mothers’ parenting practices. But men?


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Where does one learn to become a parent? Besides trial-and-error, the assumption is that people parent similar to how they were raised by their parents. A new study shows that is true for women: They tend to mimic what their own mothers did. Fathers, however, don’t seem to use their moms as parenting role models.

Researchers at Ohio State University studied how often parents in the 1990s spanked their children, read to them and showed affection. Their practices were compared to mothers’.


‘We were surprised that mothers seem to learn a lot about the parenting role from their own mothers, but fathers don’t follow their mothers as much,’ Jonathan Vespa, a co-author of the study, said in a news release. ‘Although more women were entering the workforce then, they still did the lion’s share of parenting and childcare.... There was good reason to expect that fathers would have learned parenting from their mothers.’

The study did not measure whether men learned parenting from their fathers. So that is certainly possible. ‘We really need to learn a lot more about how fathers learn to parent,’ Vespa said.

The study also reflected some big changes in parenting practices between the generations. The most recent generation of parents reads more to their kids, shows more affection and spanks less. Fathers who were spanked as children appeared especially reluctant to spank their own children.

‘If parents really just learned from their own parents, we wouldn’t witness such dramatic generational shifts as were seen in this study,’ Vespa said.

The data were collected from the National Longitudenal Survey of Youth and included 1,133 young adult parents of the mothers from the original survey in 1979. The study was presented today at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Assn.

-- Shari Roan