Sex-role identity of first-time mothers and fathers and competency as a parent
A descriptive ex post facto research design was employed to investigate three issues: First, to identify the sex-role identity of first-time mothers and fathers as either Androgynous, Masculine, Feminine, or Undifferentiated; second, to determine whether there were significant differences between the four groups of fathers in their perceived competency as parents; and third, to determine whether there were significant differences between the four groups of mothers in their perceived competency as parents.
The sample consisted of 101 couples who were first-time parents (101 fathers and 101 mothers). The parents were Caucasian, spoke and read English, and had one infant between one and fifteen months of age. Using the Short Bem Sex-Role Inventory, the sample of 101 mothers identified themselves as follows: 27 Androgynous, 26 Masculine, 28 Feminine, and 20 Undifferentiated. The fathers identified themselves as follows: 27 Androgynous, 25 Masculine, 30 Feminine, and 19 Undifferentiated. The mothers and fathers were older, well-educated, and were financially stable. The majority attended childbirth education classes, and the fathers were present for labor and birth.
The one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated there were no significant differences among the four sex-role identity groups of fathers on the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale, on the Skill/Knowledge Subscale, or on the Valuing/Comfort Subscale. For the mothers, there were significant differences on the total Parenting Sense of Competence Scale and on the Valuing/Comfort Subscale. The Feminine group of mothers viewed themselves significantly more competent overall than the Masculine group of mothers. On the Valuing/Comfort Subscale, the Androgynous and Feminine mothers viewed themselves more competent than the Masculine group of mothers.
The theoretical framework and findings from this study can assist nurses and others committed to family life identify the strengths and competencies of parents. Additionally, nurses can help dispell the stereotypes and myths regarding sex-role identity for future parents. By assisting parents to use their existing skills, to learn new skills, and to feel more comfortable and competent as a parent, parents can interact with their children in a more free and satisfying way.