Mothers and Daughters
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 7
 
TOPICS COVERED: Does it ever seem like your mom just doesn’t get you? Like you’re from different eras? Well, you are. This memo quickly paints a picture of the roles expected for women around the world and over time.
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: Birth Rate / Fertility / Family Size, Caregivers in the Workforce, Fathers and Sons, Grandparents, Children, Child care, Family Structure (Historical overviews), How People Spend Their Time, Housework
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 
 

PAGE INDEX:

 

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WOMEN'S LEGAL STATUS IN THE U.S.

MOTHERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

DAUGHTERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 
 
 
 

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WOMEN'S LEGAL STATUS IN THE U.S.

 
 
 
During Colonial times, and up until the 1800s, the legal concept was that status-wise, yes, women were property. And in some ways, they were property in the same sense as those who were slaves, but in others, it was a more complicated status. The principle, called coverture, was that, since a marriage makes a husband and wife into one person, the wife – already considered an inferior being – basically ceased to exist as a separate individual, even in a legal context. Therefore, the wife had no legal rights – because how can a person who doesn't exist have rights or do anything? Of course, they don't have rights at all. They can't do anything. Trust us: it made sense at time.
 
 
 
Anyway, so coverture meant that women had no rights. And by that, we mean that it went far beyond women not having the vote. A husband would get to make all the decisions for her. She could not own land. She could not keep salary she earned. If her husband died, she did not get to decide who got custody of her children. Anything that she owned prior to marriage – from property ownership to inheritance – instantly become her husband's once the vows were said. All of that was under the control of her husband. In exchange for all of these rights, and with the understanding that she could no longer do anything for herself, the husband would be responsible for provide his wife and their children with “necessities” (or he could pay someone else to provide them, if doing it himself proved too inconvenient). He would provide for them in the same way he did any of his other possessions. If he was a particularly good guy, the husband would include the wife in his will, leaving her what was known as "a dower," – approximately 1/3 of his land to live on if she outlived him. He had to do that, because she wouldn't automatically inherit any of it – so she and the children could have been kicked out of her own home at his death. 1.
 
 
 
In the mid-1800s, within the larger women’s rights/suffragette movement, women began to demand rights until, on a state by state basis, laws known as the Married Women’s Property Acts began to be passed. (Similar movements were also going on in the U.K. at this time as well.) Gradually, women were being given rights to hold property, make contracts, keep the salary she earned, etc. 2.
 
 
 
The MWPA’s and achievement of women's suffrage did not resolve, however, other social/legal manifestations of women’s status. You could still legally discriminate for jobs, salary, etc. It wasn’t until Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that job discrimination and other related forms of gender-based discrimination were outlawed. Defining what that law meant took years. 3.
 
 
 
Many other societal/legal barriers existed. It wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that these other manifestations began to be challenged (e.g. different rates for government benefits, state child support statutes had different cut-offs for boys (21 years) than girls (18), to different gender/age drinking laws, to of course, job discrimination in hiring, hours, and wages).
 
 
 
Traditionally, the law considered that marriage meant a woman had given her husband irrevocable consent to sex. Men could have sex with their wives any time they wished – since she was "his" (they wisely used Biblical quotes, instead of saying property), she couldn't object. She had no legal right to say "Not tonight, Honey," whether it was for a headache or anything else. There was no such thing as rape within a marriage. (Or spousal abuse, for that matter) Under the coverture logic, you and your wife are a single individual, and you can't rape yourself. If women were seen as property, men had the right to do what they wanted with their property – including beat and rape it. (And in fact, back in the day, it used to be that rape by someone other than a spouse was not a crime against the wife, herself, but was actually a crime against the husband – i.e. the property owner.). Any way you looked at it, women had no recourse. 4.
 
 
 
And lest you think that that is just as far in our past as coverture, think again. The first U.S. marital rape laws weren't passed until the 1970s. It wasn't until July 1993 that marital rape became a crime in all 50 states – and over 30 of them have exceptions that allow for nonconsensual sex in particular circumstances (e.g. if she's incapable of consent because she's unconscious). 5.
 
 
 
Even in 2000s, some states are still trying to sort out things like a husband’s liability to his wife for a tortious injury (like a car accident) or joint liability for contracts (e.g. where he is liable for both of their contracts automatically but she may not be). 6.
 
 
 

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WOMEN'S LEGAL STATUS IN THE U.S.
DAUGHTERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 
 
 

MOTHERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 
 
82.5 million
Estimated number of mothers in the United States. 7.
 
 
 
Almost 5.6 million
U.S. married women were the classic "stay-at-home" mom in 2004 – they stayed home to care for their children for the entire year while their husbands worked. Out of the 7 million U.S. married stay-at-home-moms in 2003, 6 million of them (88%) explained that the primary reason that they weren't working was to take care of their home and family. 8.
 
 
 
These stay-at-home moms took care of over 11 million children – almost 25 percent of all children under 15 years old and living in a married couple household. 9.
 
 
 
1.13 million
The increase in the number of "stay at home moms" from 1995 to 2004. 10.
 
 
 
Five percent
of American mothers of children under the age of 12 in 1950 had a college degree. 11.
 
 
 
Over 18 percent
of American mothers of children under the age of 12 in 1990 had a college degree. 12.
 
 
 
In a national study, 27 percent of all Cuban mothers didn't have any relationship with their child's fathers. 13.
 
 
 
Well, there's theory, and then there's reality –
While research in Western nations supports the idea that mothers are the primary socializing agents for their daughters, in rapidly developing Islamic populations, mothers may be acting less so – even though that's their traditional role there, as well. The problem is that some of Islamic world has utterly transformed into a modern society within a decade or two. The ideas the mothers were raised with may be not just irrelevant, but even damaging to young women who are growing up in a modernized world. 14.
 
 
 
In cross-cultural comparisons of Japanese and American mothers, researchers found marked differences in women's perceptions of their roles as mothers. American mothers saw their responsibilities as primarily raising the child through adolescence. They saw that they need to provide physical care for the child, but thought that the father should aid them in this. And they felt no particular duty to raise the child in relationship to its lineage. Japanese mothers saw themselves as having a life-long responsibility for their children. They believed that they were a part of their husband's lineage, and that their role in that was to raise their children to be respectful, cooperative, and highly achievement-oriented. 15.
 
 
 
Mother-in-Law
Among the women in families in Afghanistan, the mother-in-law is at the pinnacle of a household's hierarchy – which includes not just the mother-in-law herself, but also all of her daughters-in-law and her own daughters. In families with more than one wife present, each wife has a separately furnished room, where she can keep her belongings – she may even prepare meals in this area. 16.
 
 
 
Mom's on their side in India –
In urban India, mothers are increasingly responsible for their children's upbringing. As a result, children look on their mothers as the parent who is their friend and understands their needs more – and may ask her to represent those needs to their comparatively distant, authoritarian father. 17.
 
 
 
– but not quite as much so in China –
Chinese parents are traditionally very demanding. And this is particularly the case for the mothers of daughters, who have been thought to be responsible for ensuring their daughters' chastity before marriage – so they closely monitor their daughters' activities. However, they seem to be less harsh on their daughters than their sons: studies indicate they are less likely to use corporal punishment for girls as they are for their sons. 18.
 
 
 
On the rise –
Despite the region's strong patriarchal traditions, the number of female-headed households is on the increase in all Arab countries. The new heads of the family included not just divorced women, but widows, those separated from husbands who have had to emigrant to find work, women whose husbands abandoned them or disappeared, and women whose husbands have been imprisoned. But it also includes those women whose husbands are unemployed, and those unmarried females who are the sole/main financial supporters of dependent/unemployed families. 19.
 
 
 
But on the other hand,
the patriarchal tradition is so strong that, although an estimated 20 percent of Egyptian women are the financial providers of their family, only 10 percent describe themselves as the head of the family. 20.
 
 
 
In the Arabic world, "women still suffer under present systems particularly in areas of marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance. In some parts of the Arab world, women are banned from inheritance, though Islam has granted inheritance rights to females as half of what her brothers inherit. In Tunisia, women inherit an equal share compared to men." 21.
 
 
 
Sati (or, suttee)
The traditional Indian, Hindu practice of female self-immolation. Based in the story of how Sati, the wife of the god Shiva, killed herself when her father insulted Shiva, the custom of widows throwing themselves on their husband’s cremation pyre has gone on since possibly 400 B.C.E. By the middle ages, not only wives were burning, but other female servants and relatives as well. Rarely does it seem that it was an entirely voluntary act. Instead, it was seen as a way to preserve the honor of the family and fulfill a woman's duty to never leave her husband. It also seemed to offer guaranteed instant salvation when faced with the utter misery of widowhood. The practice was officially outlawed in 1829; however, reports of scattered incidents of sati have continued until very recent times. And perhaps it is sati that is the root of the so-called "kitchen fires," the cause of deaths for many young Indian brides, which are widely rumored to be murders by their husbands or relatives. 22.
 
 
 

A QUICK OVERVIEW OF WOMEN'S LEGAL STATUS IN THE U.S.
MOTHERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 
 
 

DAUGHTERS' ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 
 
85 percent
of American mothers in 1962 believed married couples should have children. 23.
 
 
 
40 percent
of American mothers in 1982 believed that married couples should have children. 24.
 
 
 
One in five
of American daughters in 1993 believed that married couples should have children. 25.
 
 
 
Neglect, or worse
The "son preference" in India is so strong that it means that daughters are sometimes severely neglected – to the point that they may have no self-worth when they become an adult, leaving them vulnerable to humiliation, beatings, etc. The neglect is so severe, that girl children die at a rate much higher than boys. 26.
 
 
 
But they might not do the housework or obey their parents –
the reason many Indian parents don't want to educate their daughters. 27.
 
 
 
Well, it may be the girls, if the boys are all gone
One researcher determined that – as Kenyan boys leave rural families for education and work in urban areas – daughters are being kept on the farm to take care of the elderly and younger children. 28.
 
 
 
If you really want to keep them down, start early –
In North Africa, girls are taught that they are inferior from a very early age. While more girls are gradually being educated, still many wear are hidden behind veils and closed doors. They are often forced to drop out off school to look after younger siblings. For the large majority, maintaining the family household is still their sole the responsibility. 29.
 
 
 
South American daughters –
and others in the family – have traditionally been responsible for taking care of the families' elders. But their duty to care for them has becoming gradually lessened with the creation of state-run welfare-services. 30.
 
 
 
____________________________________________________
 
 
1. Claudia Zaher, When a Woman's Marital Status Determined Her Legal Status: A Research Guide on the Common Law Doctrine of Coverturne, Chase College of Law Library, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, American Association of Law Libraries (2002). Archived at: http://www.aallnet.org/products/2002-28.pdf; Isabel Marcus, "Coverture," The Reader's Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin Co. Archived at: http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/women/html/wh_008900_coverture.htm; and Rick Geddes and Dean Lueck, The Gains From Self-Ownership and the Expansion of Women's Rights, John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics, Working Paper No. 181, Stanford Law School (August 2000). Archived at: http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id=236012
2. ________, "Married Women's Property Acts," The Reader's Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin Co. Archived at: http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/rcah/html/rc_056700_marriedwomen.htm and Eileen Connell, ed., "The Woman Question: Overview," The Victorian Age: Topics, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Norton Topics Online, W.W. Norton and Co. (2003-2005). Archived at: http://www.wwnorton.com/nael/victorian/topic_2/welcome.htm
3. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Melvin L. Wulf, Brenda Feigen Fasteau, Marc Feigen Fasteau, Amicus Curiae Brief of American Civil Liberties Union for Frontiero v. Laird, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, New York (1972), Section I and Section II(D)(1-3). Archived at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/curiae/html/411-677/005.htm
4. See, for example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Melvin L. Wulf, Brenda Feigen Fasteau, Marc Feigen Fasteau, Amicus Curiae Brief of American Civil Liberties Union for Frontiero v. Laird, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, New York (1972), Section I and Section II(D)(1-3). Archived at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/curiae/html/411-677/005.htm and Jill Elaine Hasday, "Contest and Consent: A Legal History of Marital Rape," Occasional Paper 41, University of Chicago Law School (May 2000). Archived at: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/academics/maritalrape.html
5. See, for example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Melvin L. Wulf, Brenda Feigen Fasteau, Marc Feigen Fasteau, Amicus Curiae Brief of American Civil Liberties Union for Frontiero v. Laird, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, New York (1972), Section I and Section II(D)(1-3). Archived at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/curiae/html/411-677/005.htm and Jill Elaine Hasday, "Contest and Consent: A Legal History of Marital Rape," Occasional Paper 41, University of Chicago Law School (May 2000). Archived at: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/academics/maritalrape.html and Raquel Kennedy Bergen, "Marital Rape," Domestic Violence Applied Research Documents, VAWNet, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence Harrisburg, PA (March 1999). Accessed at: http://www.vawnet.org/DomesticViolence/Research/VAWnetDocs/AR_mrape.php on August 15, 2005. and ________, "State Law Chart," National Clearinghouse on Marital & Date Rape (June 1998). Accessed at: http://members.aol.com/ncmdr/state_law_chart.html on October 24, 2005.
6. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Melvin L. Wulf, Brenda Feigen Fasteau, Marc Feigen Fasteau, Amicus Curiae Brief of American Civil Liberties Union for Frontiero v. Laird, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, New York (1972), Section I and Section II(D)(1-3). Archived at: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/curiae/html/411-677/005.htm
7. ________, "Facts for Features: Women's History Month (March)," Press Release, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. (February 22, 2005)(citing an unpublished report). Archived at: http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/003897.html
8. Jason Fields, Children and their Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002, Current Population Reports P20-547, US Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 10. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-547.pdf; Table 59, "Parents and Children in Stay-At-Home Parent Family Groups:1995 to 2004,"________, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006 (125th Edition), U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2005)(p. 53) citing U.S. Census Bureau, ‘‘Families and LivingArrangements’’; published 29 June 2005; <http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam.html>. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract.html
9. Jason Fields, Children and their Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2002, Current Population Reports P20-547, US Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2003), p. 10. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-547.pdf
10. Table 59, "Parents and Children in Stay-At-Home Parent Family Groups:1995 to 2004,"________, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2006 (125th Edition), U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC (2005)(p. 53) citing U.S. Census Bureau, ‘‘Families and Living Arrangements’’; published 29 June 2005; <http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam.html>. Archived at: http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical-abstract.html
11. John F. Sandberg and Sandra L. Hofferth, Changes in Children's Time with Parents, U.S. 1981-1997, PSC Research Report, Report No. 01-475, Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 2001), p. 5 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/pdf/rr01-475.pdf
12. John F. Sandberg and Sandra L. Hofferth, Changes in Children's Time with Parents, U.S. 1981-1997, PSC Research Report, Report No. 01-475, Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 2001), p. 5 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/pdf/rr01-475.pdf
13. Anne R. Roschelle, Maura I. Toro-Morn, Elisa Facio, "Families in Cuba: From Colonialism to Revolution," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 414-439 (2005), pp. 425-426. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
14. Paul L. Schvaneveldt, Jennifer L Kerpelman and Jay D Schvaneveldt, "Generational and Cultural Changes in Family Life in the United Arab Emirates," Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 36, 1; Research Library Core, p. 77 et seq. (Winter 2005), p. 80.
15. Cigdem Kagitcibasi, Family And Human Development Across Cultures: A View From The Other Side, Lea / Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., Mahwah, New Jersey (1996), p. 31 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0805820760/qid=11237769December sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books
16. Nancy Hatch Dupree and Thomas E. Gouttierre, "The Society and Its Environment," Chapter 2, "Family" section, Afghanistan, Library of Congress Country Study. (1997). Available in on-line edition at: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/aftoc.html
17. J.P. Singh, "The Contemporary Indian Family," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 129-166 (2005), p. 149. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
18. Daniel T. Shek, "Adolescents' Perceptions of Paternal and Maternal Parenting Styles in a Chinese Context," The Journal of Psychology (September 1, 1998) http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:21083549
19. Hoda Badran, "Major Trends Affecting Families El Mashrek El Araby," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (2003), p. 9 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtbadran.pdf
20. See Hoda Badran, "Major Trends Affecting Families El Mashrek El Araby," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (2003), p. 9 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtbadran.pdf
21. Nazek Nosseir, "Family in the New Millennium: Major Trends Affecting Families in North Africa," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (2003), pp. 7-8. Archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtnosseir.pdf
22. John Renard, Responses to 101 Questions on Hinduism, Paulist Press (March 1999). Available throught: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080913845X/104-9145697-0978338?v=glance&n=283155&n=507846&s=books&v=glance
23. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Sheela Kennedy, Vonnie C. Mcloyd, Rubén G. Rumbaut and Richard A. Settersten, Jr., "Growing Up is Harder to Do," Contexts, Amer. Sociological Assoc., Vol. 3, Issue 3, pp. 33-41 (Summer 2004), p. 35.
24. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Sheela Kennedy, Vonnie C. Mcloyd, Rubén G. Rumbaut and Richard A. Settersten, Jr., "Growing Up is Harder to Do," Contexts, Amer. Sociological Assoc., Vol. 3, Issue 3, pp. 33-41 (Summer 2004), p. 35.
25. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., Sheela Kennedy, Vonnie C. Mcloyd, Rubén G. Rumbaut and Richard A. Settersten, Jr., "Growing Up is Harder to Do," Contexts, Amer. Sociological Assoc., Vol. 3, Issue 3, pp. 33-41 (Summer 2004), p. 35.
26. J.P. Singh, "The Contemporary Indian Family," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 129-166 (2005), p. 147. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
27. J.P. Singh, "The Contemporary Indian Family," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 129-166 (2005), p. 148. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
28. Edward K. Mburugu and Bert N. Adams, "Families in Kenya," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 3-24 (2005), p. 19. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
29. Nazek Nosseir, "Family in the New Millennium: Major Trends Affecting Families in North Africa," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (2003), p. 7. Archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtnosseir.pdf
30. Elizabeth Jelin and Ana Rita Díaz-Muñoz, "Major Trends Affecting Families: South America in Perspective," Major Trends Affecting Families: A Background Document, Report for United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development, Program on the Family (2003) p. 10. Archived at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/family/Publications/mtjelin.pdf