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New moms ‘gate keep’ to evaluate their partners’ ability to raise kids

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Washington : New mothers watch their partners closely to evaluate if how good a parent they could be to their child, finds a new study.

The Ohio State University research found that mothers limited the father’s involvement in child-rearing when they perceived their couple relationship to be less stable. Mothers also limited fathers who were less confident in their own ability to raise children.

Professor and co-author of the study Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan said that the assessment by new mothers plays critical role in “maternal gatekeeping,” a term researchers use to describe the behaviors and attitudes of mothers that may support or limit father involvement in child-rearing.

While gate-closing behaviour includes actions like criticising the father’s parenting, redoing tasks the father has already completed and taking over parental decision-making, gate-opening behavior includes asking the father’s opinion on a parenting issue and arranging activities for the father to do with the child.

The researchers studied 182 couples, who were assessed twice: once during the third trimester of pregnancy and again three months after the baby was born.

Results showed that mothers were more likely to push fathers away from child-rearing at three months if they reported during their third trimester that they had considered divorce or separation and that they didn’t think things were going well with their partner.

Mothers also were more likely to “close the gate” on fathers who reported during the third trimester that they didn’t feel confident about their parenting skills, such as the ability to do things like soothe a crying baby.

Mothers who were perfectionists or who were more anxious and depressed were also more likely to limit fathers’ child care involvement.

Surprisingly to the researchers, mothers who held more traditional gender attitudes (such as “mothers are instinctively better caretakers than fathers”) were not more likely to “close the gate” on fathers than other women.

None of these results should be seen as blaming mothers for shutting out fathers, Schoppe-Sullivan emphasised.

The study is published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice. (ANI)