Variation in Infant Experience Associated with Alternative Family Roles

  • Frank A. Pedersen
  • Richard L. CainJr.
  • Martha J. Zaslow
  • Barbara J. Anderson


Observational data on the young child interacting with either mother or father derive primarily from studies of families with traditional roles: the mother characteristically is the infant’s primary caregiver and the father fulfills the wage-earner role. Conceptualizations of maternal and paternal relationships, particularly theories stemming from the psychoanalytic tradition, similarly assume this family-role organization. Contrary to the dominant empirical and conceptual notions of early experience, however, there is a clear secular trend among all industrialized nations toward families more typically having two wage earners even when there are very young children (Cook, 1978). Indeed, the rate of increase in employment rates for U.S. mothers is greatest for those with young children. In the period in which employment rates doubled for mothers with school-age children, there was a threefold increase for mothers with pre-school-age children. In 1979 over 40% of U.S. mothers with children under age 3 were employed outside the home (U.S. Department of Labor, 1979). Despite the increasing prevalence of dual-wage-earner families, little is known about whether families with two wage earners have different styles of interacting with and caring for the young infant than is characteristically found in the traditional single-wage-earner family.


Parental Behavior Tactile Stimulation Family Role Social Play Maternal Employment 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank A. Pedersen
    • 1
  • Richard L. CainJr.
    • 1
  • Martha J. Zaslow
    • 1
  • Barbara J. Anderson
    • 2
  1. 1.National Institute of Child Health and Human DevelopmentBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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