Skip to main content

Feminism and Attachment Parenting: Attitudes, Stereotypes, and Misperceptions

Abstract

This paper investigated attitudes and stereotypes about what feminist women, primarily from the United States, believed about a number of practices associated with attachment parenting which is theorized to be both feminist and non-feminist. The goals of this study were to determine whether feminists endorsed attachment parenting and whether stereotypes of feminists’ beliefs corresponded to actual feminists’ attitudes. Women were recruited online, primarily through blogs, to complete an online survey about feminism and mothering. Four hundred and thirty one women comprised the sample for the current investigation and included heterosexual-identified feminist mothers (n = 147), feminist non-mothers (n = 75), non-feminist mothers (n = 143), and non-feminist non-mothers (n = 66). Participants were asked to rate their own attitudes towards specific practices associated with attachment parenting and to indicate their perceptions of the beliefs of the typical feminist. Results indicated that feminists were more supportive of attachment parenting practices than were non-feminists. Non-feminists, particularly mothers, held misperceptions about the typical feminist, seeing them as largely uninterested in the time-intensive and hands-on practices associated with attachment parenting. Feminist mothers also held stereotypes about feminists and saw themselves as somewhat atypical feminists who were more interested in attachment parenting than they thought was typical of feminists. Our data indicated that feminists did endorse attachment parenting and that stereotypes of feminists related to attachment parenting are untrue. Furthermore, the role of feminism in the identity of feminist mothers and whether attachment parenting is truly a feminist way to parent are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Anderson, K. J., Kanner, M., & Elsayegh, N. (2009). Are feminists man haters? Feminists’ and nonfeminists’ attitudes toward men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33, 216–224. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2009.01491.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arendell, T. (2000). Conceiving and investigating motherhood: The decade’s scholarship. Journal of Marriage & the Family, 62, 1192–1207. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01192.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Badinter, E. (2011). The conflict: How modern motherhood undermines the status of women (trans: Hunter, A.). New York: Metropolitan Books.

  • Berryman-Fink, C., & Verderber, K. S. (1985). Attributions of the term feminist: A factor analytic development of a measuring instrument. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 9, 51–64. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1985.tb00860.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bialik, M. (2012, May 1). Attachment parenting is feminism [Online forum contribution]. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/04/30/motherhood-vs-feminism/attachment-parenting-is-feminism.

  • Bobel, C. (2008). Resisting, but not too much: Interrogating the paradox of natural mothering. In J. Nathanson & L. C. Tuley (Eds.), Mother knows best: Talking back to the “experts” (pp. 113–123). Toronto: Demeter Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brewer, M. (1991). The social self: On being the same and different at the same time. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 77, 475–82. doi:10.1177/0146167291175001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Collins, P. H. (1994). Shifting the center: Race, class, and feminist theorizing about motherhood. In D. Bassin, M. Honey, & M. M. Kaplan (Eds.), Representations of motherhood (pp. 56–74). New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conrad, R. (2009). Desiring relation: Mothers’ and children’s agency, subjectivity, and time—Commentary on Daphne de Marneffe’s Maternal desire. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 10, 12–20. doi:10.1080/15240650802580407.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crossley, M. L. (2009). Breastfeeding as a moral imperative: An autoethnographic study. Feminism & Psychology, 19, 71–87. doi:10.1177/0959353508098620.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • de Marneffe, D. (2004). Maternal desire: On children, love and the inner life. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeWall, C. N., Altermatt, T. W., & Thompson, H. (2005). Understanding the structure of stereotypes of women: Virtue and agency as dimensions distinguishing female subgroups. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 396–405. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2005.00239.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dillaway, H., & Paré, E. (2008). Locating mothers: How cultural debates about stay-at-home versus working mothers define women and home. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 437–464. doi:10.1177/0192513X07310309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, S. J., & Michaels, M. W. (2004). The mommy myth: The idealization of motherhood and how it has undermined women. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ehrenreich, B., & English, E. (1978). For her own good: 150 years of the experts’ advice to women. New York: Doubleday.

    Google Scholar 

  • Etelson, E. (2007). Do real feminists attachment parent? Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health, 21, 363–385.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eyer, D. (1996). Motherguilt. New York: Times Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Faludi, S. (1991). Backlash: The undeclared war against American women. New York: Crown.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feder, D. (2006, March). Feminists to women: Shut up and do as you’re told. Human Events, 62(9), 15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Franzblau, S. H. (1999). Historicizing attachment theory: Binding the ties that bind. Feminism & Psychology, 9, 22–31. doi:10.1177/0959353599009001003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Friedan, B. (1981). Second stage. New York: Summit Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Friedman, M. (2008). “Everything you need to know about your baby:” Feminism and attachment parenting. In J. Nathanson & L. C. Tuley (Eds.), Mother knows best: Talking back to the “experts” (pp. 135–141). Toronto: Demeter Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gerson, M.-J. (1980). The lure of motherhood. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 5, 207–218. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1980.tb00957.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gerson, M.-J. (1984). Feminism and the wish for a child. Sex Roles, 11, 389–399. doi:10.1007/BF00287467.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gordon, T. (1990). Feminist mothers. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Green, K. E., & Groves, M. M. (2008). Attachment parenting: An exploration of demographics and practices. Early Child Development and Care, 178, 513–525. doi:10.1080/03004430600851199.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hays, S. (1996). The cultural contradictions of motherhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Houvouras, S., & Carter, J. S. (2008). The F word: College students’ definitions of a feminist. Sociological Forum, 23, 234–256. doi:10.1111/j.1573-7861.2008.00072.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, D. D., & Swanson, D. H. (2003). Invisible mothers: A content analysis of motherhood ideologies and myths in magazines. Sex Roles, 49, 21–33. doi:10.1023/A:1023905518500.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jong, E. (2010, November 6). The madness of modern motherhood. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704462704575590603553674296.html.

  • Katz-Wise, S. L., Priess, H. A., & Hyde, J. S. (2010). Gender-role attitudes and behavior across the transition to parenthood. Developmental Psychology, 46, 18–28. doi:10.1037/a0017820.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liss, M., Hoffner, C., & Crawford, M. (2000). What do feminists believe? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 279–284. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb00210.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lopez, L. K. (2009). The radical act of ‘mommy blogging’: Redefining motherhood through the blogosphere. New Media & Society, 11, 729–747. doi:10.1177/1461444809105349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morgan, B. L. (1996). Putting the feminism into feminism scales: Introduction of a Liberal Feminist Attitude and Ideology Scale (LFAIS). Sex Roles, 34, 359–390. doi:10.1007/BF01547807.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Brien Hallstein, D. L. (2008). Silence and choice: The legacies of white second wave feminism in the new professoriate. Women’s Studies in Communication, 31, 143–150. doi:10.1080/07491409.2008.10162526.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Reilly, A. O. (Ed.). (2008). Feminist mothering. Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rich, A. (1976). Of woman born: Motherhood as experience and institution. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruddick, S. (1989). Maternal thinking: Toward a politics of peace. Boston: Beacon.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rudman, L. A., & Fairchild, K. (2007). The F word: Is feminism incompatible with beauty and romance? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 125–136. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2007.00346.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rudman, L. A., & Phelan, J. E. (2007). The interpersonal power of feminism: Is feminism good for romantic relationships? Sex Roles, 57, 787–799. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9319-9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schon, R. A., & Silven, M. (2007). Natural parenting: Back to basics in infant care. Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 102–183.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sears, W., & Sears, M. (2003). The baby book. New York: Sears and Sears.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simons, M. A. (1984). Motherhood, feminism and identity. Women’s Studies International Forum, 7, 349–359. doi:10.1016/0277-5395(84)90034-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snitow, A. (1992). Feminism and motherhood: An American reading. Feminist Review, 40, 32–51. doi:10.1057/fr.1992.4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories: Studies in social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thanyachareon, A. M. W. (2010). Mother work: A stay-at-home mom advocates breastfeeding. In A. M. White (Ed.), African Americans doing feminism: Putting theory into everyday practice (pp. 11–30). Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tietjens Meyers, D. (2001). The rush to motherhood: Pronatalist discourse and women’s autonomy. Signs, 6, 735–773. doi:10.1086/495627.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Twenge, J. M., & Zucker, A. N. (1999). What is a feminist? Evaluations and stereotypes in closed- and open-ended responses. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 591–605. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00383.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Umansky, L. (1996). Motherhood reconceived: Feminism and the legacy of the sixties. New York: New York University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yoder, J. D., Tobia, A., & Snell, A. F. (2011). When declaring “I am a feminist” matters: Labeling is linked to activism. Sex Roles, 64, 9–18. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9890-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Miriam Liss.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Liss, M., Erchull, M.J. Feminism and Attachment Parenting: Attitudes, Stereotypes, and Misperceptions. Sex Roles 67, 131–142 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0173-z

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0173-z

Keywords

  • Feminism
  • Mothering
  • Attachment parenting
  • Stereotypes
  • Social norms
  • Social identity theory