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Fam Process. 2012 Sep;51(3):343-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2012.01401.x.

Low-income mothers as "othermothers" to their romantic partners' children: women's coparenting in multiple partner fertility relationships.

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  • 1Sociology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27705, USA. lburton@soc.duke.edu

Abstract

In this article, we investigated low-income mothers' involvement in multiple partner fertility (MPF) relationships and their experiences as "othermothers" to their romantic partners' children from previous and concurrent intimate unions. Othermothering, as somewhat distinct from stepmothering, involves culturally-scripted practices of sharing parenting responsibilities with children's biological parents. We framed this investigation using this concept because previous research suggests that many low-income women practice this form of coparenting in their friend and kin networks. What is not apparent in this literature, however, is whether women unilaterally othermother their romantic partners' children from different women. How often and under what circumstances do women in nonmarital MPF intimate unions with men coparent their partners' children from other relationships? We explored this question using a modified grounded theory approach and secondary longitudinal ethnographic data on 256 low-income mostly unmarried mothers from the Three-City Study. Results indicated that 78% of the mothers had been or were involved in MPF unions and while most had othermothered the children of their friends and relatives, 89% indicated that they did not coparent their partners' children from any MPF relationship. Mothers' reasons for not doing so were embedded in: (a) gendered scripts around second families, or "casa chicas"; (b) the tenuous nature of pass-through MPF relationships; and (c) mothers' own desires for their romantic partners to child-swap. Implications of this research for family science and practice are discussed.

© FPI, Inc.

PMID:
22984973
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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