American Sociological Review highlights families, parenting, and divorce

April 18, 2001

Washington, DC--The April issue of the American Sociological Review (ASR), the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association (ASA), features articles on themes related to well-being of families, parenting, and marital relationships.

The five articles are scholarly contributions based on research studies, but the topics covered include issues of wide public interest and debate, including: Does the sexual orientation of parents matter? What effect does the employment of wives have on the dissolution of marriages? What consequence does the dissolution of marriage have on the standard of living of men? Does motherhood affect an employed woman's wages? How do parental influences affect the division of labor among their adult children?

In their article on "The Wage Penalty of Motherhood," Michelle J. Budig (University of Arizona and the University of Pennsylvania) and Paula England (University of Pennsylvania) explore the reasons why working mothers earn less in wages. Using data covering the period from 1982-1993, the authors find a wage penalty of 7 percent per child among young American women. One-third of the penalty is explained by years of job experience and seniority (e.g., work was part-time, or motherhood led to breaks in employment), but two-thirds of the penalty remains--even after controlling for elaborate measures of work experience. Budig and England conclude that the unexplained portion of the motherhood penalty probably results from the effect of motherhood on productivity and/or from discrimination by employers against mothers. For a complete copy of this article see the ASA website at www.asanet.org (click on "Publications").

Two of the articles present research findings on themes relating to divorce. Scott J. South (University of Albany, SUNY) analyzes "Time-Dependent Effects of Wives' Employment on Marital Dissolution." His research uses data covering the period between 1969 and 1993 to show that the effect of wives' employment on marital dissolution has increased over time.

Moreover, as marriages age, the effect of wives' employment becomes stronger and the effect of wives' education becomes weaker. In the first three years of marriage, the predicted annual risk of divorce among married women with less than a high school education is over twice that for wives of high school education, and almost four times the risk for wives with some college education.

In "Losers and Winners: The Financial Consequences of Separation and Divorce for Men," Patricia A. McManus (Indiana University) and Thomas A. DiPrete (Duke University) show that, contrary to conventional thinking, the majority of partnered men in the U.S. lose economic status when their unions dissolve. The data show a trend towards interdependence among American couples, which appears to increase the proportion of men who face a reduced standard of living.

Mick Cunningham (Western Washington University) examined intergenerational data to determine parental predictors of the division of household labor among adult children in his article on "Parental Influences on the Gendered Division of Housework." He concluded that children learn which types of housework belong to a particular gender through modeled behavior, by entry into a particular context, and through family experiences. The effect of parental behavior is greater at children's early childhood than at adolescence, a finding that is important to parents in understanding the influence of their behaviors in early childhood.

In their article "(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz (University of Southern California) explore what prior research has shown about effects of parental gender or sexual orientation on children's sexual preferences and behavior. After considering various conceptual frameworks, they assess findings from 21 psychological studies conducted between 1981 and 1998 that addressed sociological questions about how parental sexual orientations matters to children. The authors find some interesting differences among children based on sexual orientation of parents. For example, children, especially daughters, did not follow gender norms in play or in career choices; sons tend to be more conforming in gender roles.

While opponents of lesbian and gay parental rights claim that children of lesbigay parents are at higher risk for negative outcomes, most research in psychology concludes that there are no differences in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay parents and those raised by heterosexual parents. Yet, the authors argue, by taking this narrow and defensive approach in studying families with differing sexual orientations, researchers have missed interesting and stimulating research that could be developed if differences were not downplayed.
-end-
The American Sociological Review publishes articles that advance understanding of fundamental social processes, and present innovative theoretical and methodological advances in social research.

To acquire a copy of the April 2001 Issue of the American Sociological Review or any of the articles, members of the media should contact the American Sociological Association's Public Information Office at (202) 383-9005 x320; pubinfo@asanet.org.

American Sociological Association

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