Sex Roles, Vol. 42, Nos. 9/10, 2000
Mothers’ and Fathers’ Gender-Role Characteristics:
The Assignment of Postdivorce Child Care and
Charles D. Hoffman
California State University, San Bernardino
Loma Linda University
Adults (151 female, 130 male; 17.4% African American/Black, 48% Cauca-
sian, 22.8% Latino/Hispanic, 11.7% ‘‘other’’) assigned postdivorce parental
care and custody for four combinations of traditional/nontraditional mothers
and fathers described in vignettes of divorcing parents. Parental gender char-
acteristics inﬂuenced the assignment of parental care and child custody to
divorcing mothers and fathers described in the scenarios and interacted with
child gender. Across scenarios, female participants assigned more parental
care and custody to mothers than did male participants. When feminine
qualities were paired with masculine qualities, greater custody was assigned
to the parent described with feminine characteristics (whether a father or
mother) than when that parent was described with masculine characteristics.
The role of feminine gender characteristics for child custody and care was
discussed with regard to maternal primacy and possible changes for father
involvement in the aftermath of divorce.
The primacy of mothers’ parental role in children’s lives is perhaps best
indicated in the aftermath of divorce. The overwhelming majority of chil-
dren live with their mothers after divorce (Glick, 1988), while fathers’
The authors would like to express their appreciation to H. Fonosch, Y. Hunter, S. Leach,
K. Scannell, C. Wagner, and S. Walker for their assistance in gathering data for this study.
The authors also offer a special note of gratitude to Dr. Gloria Cowan for her invaluable
assistance in helping the authors respond to reviewers’ editorial comments.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, California State
University, San Bernardino, California 92407. e-mail: email@example.com.
0360-0025/00/0500-0917$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation