Family stuff: How dads’ presence affects daughters, how families affect working moms and more

by Ryan Streeter on July 6, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

As a regular consumer of Kevin Lewis’s daily research roundup, I find more of interest in his daily emails than I have time to explore. These two research abstracts from one of his recent roundups are interesting, worth exploring if you’re into social science research on family dynamics:

The Effects of Paternal Disengagement on Women’s Sexual Decision Making: An Experimental Approach

Danielle DelPriore & Sarah Hill
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

An abundance of research demonstrates a robust association between father absence — or low-quality paternal involvement — and daughters’ accelerated sexual development, promiscuity, and sexual risk taking. Although recent natural experiments provide support for fathers playing a causal role in these outcomes, these effects have not been examined using a randomized experimental design to eliminate genetic and environmental confounds inherent in previous studies. We redressed this empirical gap by experimentally testing the effects of primed paternal disengagement cues on women’s sexual decision making. Across 5 experiments, reminders of paternal disengagement increased women’s activation of sexual thoughts (Experiment 1), sexual permissiveness (Experiments 2-4), and negativity toward condom use (Experiment 5). Moreover, these effects were specific to women’s sexual decision making, as paternal disengagement cues failed to influence women’s willingness to take nonsexual risks (Experiment 4) or men’s risky sexual attitudes (Experiment 5). These results provide the first true experimental evidence supporting a causal relationship between paternal disengagement and changes in women’s psychology that promote risky sexual behavior.


Career, Family, and the Well-Being of College-Educated Women

Marianne Bertrand
American Economic Review, May 2013, Pages 244-250

I report on measures of life satisfaction and emotional well-being across groups of college-educated women, based on whether they have a career, a family, both, or neither. The biggest premium to life satisfaction is associated with having a family. While there is also a life satisfaction premium associated with having a career, women do not seem able to “double up” on these premiums. A qualitatively similar picture emerges from the emotional well-being data. Among college-educated women with family, those with a career spend a larger share of their day unhappy, sad, stressed and tired.