A new study suggests that mothers, but not fathers, tend to follow in the footsteps of their own mums when it comes to learning parenting practices.
Experts at Ohio State University examined actual parenting methods over two generations, following parents and their kids over the years, and, subsequently, continuing to follow the children as they had their own kids.
Jonathan Vespa, co-author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State, found that mothers were likely to follow the same practices their own mothers did, while fathers did not always use their moms as parenting role models.
Vespa conducted the study in collaboration with Elizabeth Cooksey, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State, and Canada Keck, a senior research associate at Ohio State's Center for Human Resource Research.
He said: "We were surprised that mothers seem to learn a lot about the parenting role from their own mothers, but fathers don't follow their mothers as much. There was good reason to expect that fathers would have learned parenting from their mothers. These fathers were growing up in 70s and 80s and received much of their parenting from their mothers. Although more women were entering the workforce then, they still did the lion's share of parenting and childcare."
The researchers observed how often parents in the 1990s spanked, read to and showed affection to their kids, and compared that to how these parents were treated by their own mothers.
The study found significant generational changes in parenting practices, with great increases in the amount of reading and affection shown to children today, and reductions in the amount of spanking.
But Vespa pointed out that while the second generation of mothers closely followed what their mothers did, some parenting practices were handed only to a certain degree.
He said: "If parents really just learned from their own parents, we wouldn't witness such dramatic generational shifts as were seen in this study. We need to look at the broader culture to find other sources of change that shape how parents learn to parent."
The research was presented in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.
The data was provided by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a nationally representative survey of people nationwide conducted by Ohio State's Center for Human Resource Research.