Moderator Effects of Father's Traditional Masculinity and Mother's Parental Beliefs on Associations Between Father's Psychological Distress and Maternal Gatekeeping

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The Ohio State University

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Maternal gatekeeping, or attitudes or behaviors that facilitate or inhibit fathers' participation in childcare, predicts less paternal involvement in childcare (Lamb, 1997). A recent study by Thomas and Holmes (2020) suggests that maternal gatekeeping could be a protective tool for the child against fathers' risk factors such as adherence to toxic masculinity norms (i.e., violence and dominance) and psychological distress (i.e., depression and anxiety). For further investigation of this claim, this study focuses on two research questions: 1) Do mothers gatekeep to protect their children from risk factors? 2) Do paternal masculinity/maternal parental beliefs have moderating effects on the association? This study used survey data from the New Parents Project (NPP), consisting of 182 dual-earner couples that transitioned to parenthood for the first time in 2008- 2009. Measures used in this study include self-reports of fathers' anxiety, parents' perceptions of mothers' maternal gatekeeping, fathers' masculinity score, and beliefs regarding parental roles from both mothers and fathers collected at 3 months and 9 months of post-partum. Mothers' progressive parental beliefs moderated the association between fathers' anxiety and maternal gatekeeping. When mothers were more progressive, they both gateopened and gateclosed anxious fathers more. This result suggests that mothers use maternal gatekeeping as a protective tool. Progressive mothers may be more cognizant of negative child outcomes from parental anxiety and develop more rigid standards of parenting than traditional mothers. Researchers can further study this correlation in the future. Depending on the type, masculinities can be positively or negatively associated with depression and anxiety (Schoppe-Sullivan et al., 2021). Hence, future research can also examine what distinct masculinities moderate the association.



Maternal gatekeeping, Father, Masculinity, Parental beliefs, Depression, Anxiety