Expanding the Mother-Child Paradigm: An Examination of Dissertation Research 1986–1994

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Reliance on the mother-child dyad as the primary context for understanding child development has caused fathers to be underrepresented in published research on child development and developmental psychopathology. In order to investigate whether this pattern was also evident in the work of future psychologists, we reviewed Dissertation Abstracts from 1986 through 1994. Results showed that fathers were the focus of significantly fewer dissertation studies (10.5%) than were mothers (59.5%) or both parents (30.0%). We argue that essentializing the mother-child bond is a political philosophy about the roles of men and women that places the discipline of psychology at risk for inadvertently becoming an apologist for the neoconservative political right. Specific suggestions for revising graduate training are presented. The social policy implications for continuing this trend into the next generation of psychologists are discussed.

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Psychology of Women Quarterly, v. 20, issue 1, p. 39-53