Negotiating "Impossible" Ideals: Latent Classes of Intensive Mothering in the United States
Forthcoming at Gender & Society
The primary goal of this study is to identify patterns in the ways mothers adhere to, reject, and combine intensive mothering attitudes and behaviors. Mothers often face immense pressure to devote significant physical and mental effort toward childrearing, referred to as intensive mothering. At the same time, many mothers do not follow the actions or beliefs gender norms suggest they should. It remains unclear how mothers holistically approach intensive parenting across many different facets. Using the 2014 Child Development Supplement from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I examined how a sample of mothers fell into intensive mothering profiles, or latent classes, and how class membership varied by demographic characteristics. Results showed four underlying latent classes of intensive motherhood: Relaxed Mothers (33 percent), High Investors (25 percent), Essentialist Mothers (22 percent), and Strained Mothers (20 percent). No group was intensive across all measures, contrary to common narratives in previous research and theory. Class membership varied by several characteristics, including education, age, income, race, single parenthood, and employment. By revealing how mothers are selectively intensive, this study expands on the ways mothers simultaneously “do” and “undo” gender norms in their parenting, as well as the sociodemographics that may predict these patterns.
Dowry Inflation: Perception or Reality?
with Mary K. Shenk, Mary C. Towner, and Nurul Alam; Population Research and Policy Review (2022)
Research on South Asia has consistently documented increasing dowry amounts over the past several decades. Although recent studies have largely concluded this is due to an overall rise in prices, and therefore not a real increase per se, methodological limitations make this difficult to discern. In this paper, we assess: (1) if dowry amounts increased faster than the general inflation rate, and (2) how dowry amounts increased relative to income. Using data on rural Bangladesh from 1955 to 2010, we show trends in gross dowry, net dowry, and the ratio of dowry to income using multiple inflation adjustments. We find that only some aspects of dowries rose in certain periods, but the ratio of dowry to income steadily increased across time. We discuss implications of these results for understanding past contradictory findings and for gaining insight into the mechanisms by which widespread perceptions of dowry inflation may be maintained.
Aesthetic Style: How Material Objects Structure an Institutional Field
with Gary J. Adler, Jr. and Daniel DellaPosta; Sociological Theory (2022)
How does material culture matter for institutions? Material objects are increasingly prominent in sociological research, but current studies offer limited insight for how material objects matter to institutional processes. We build on sociological insights to theorize aesthetic style, a shared pattern of material object presence and usage among a cluster of organizations in an institutional field. We use formal relational methods and a survey of material objects from religious congregations to uncover the aesthetic styles that are part of the “logics of god” in the United States’ Christian religious field. We argue aesthetic styles help structure an institutional field by spanning objects’ meanings across space and time, stabilizing objects’ authority, and demarcating symbolic boundaries. Our research provides a conceptual tool for understanding how objects bridge the material and symbolic dimensions of institutions and a methodological example for examining the meaning of objects across numerous organizations in an institutional field.