Gender And Child Custody Essay Research Paper

Gender And Child Custody Essay, Research Paper

Gender and Child Custody Within the fabric of our society their seems to be a ideology about gender and child custody. This ideology stems from the facts about who should be the legal guardian of their son or daughter. The stereotypical views of our culture would perceive that women are more suited for the task of child development leaving the father bound to support the child. This created such movements as the “father’s right’s movement” where they were determined to appeal to the masses by attempting to change the ideology of guardianship and the role of the mother. Nancy D. Polikoff, who wrote the article “Gender and Child Custody Determinations: Exploding the Myths”, attempts to clear some of the mis-conceptions about the guardianship of children in referring to the father’s claim’s. Polikoff’s argument about gender and child custody is ” the belief that women have an unfair advantage over men in divorce courts.” (Polikoff, p 183). She begins to argue that it is our cultural beliefs that the mother should be the guardian for the child because she has legal birth right, hence she is the child’s mother. Society therefore placed the child with it’s mother without having seen the circumstances or status of either parent. Although she is the birth mother the court system see’s the division of the family different from that of the ideologies held by society. The Father’s Right Movement, which resembles the Women’s right’s movement, attempted to sway society into believe that only women get custody of their children. “The claim that father’s are discriminated against in custody decisions tends to center on the statistics that about 90 percent of the children of divorce are in the custody of their mothers, and the tender years’ presumption, a doctrine of historical short duration that made it extremely difficult for fathers to gain custody of children of tender years unless the mother was proven unfit” (Polikoff, p184) Thus this “90 percent” of all mother’s receiving custody does not take into account a lot of factors. Studies have shown that if the father is willing to fight it out in court and seek custody, he has a good chance of receiving it. In 1977 fathers, who willing tried for custody of their child, had a success rate of 67% which is a far cry from that of the Father’s Right Movement’s 90% mother rate. But why the difference? There seems to be a certain diversification of gender that takes place in the court rooms themselves. Within our court systems there lies an inequality of the sexes. Although we consider gender relations and equality a common place with society, there is a value system which is still held within our courts. If we were to examine a divorce where the mother and father are both the bread winner’s, meaning equal income earner’s, a problem arises in deciding custody. It is in the courts opinion that mother’s who embark upon a career result in losing

the ability to care for the child. The father on the other hand, could remain employed and retain custody. Polikoff clarifies this when she states “…the mother is performing more than her traditional parental role, making the father seem more attractive as a custodian.” (Polikoff, p.187) The ideologies and mis conceptions about child custody is that judges tend to lend themselves more to the fathers side when it comes to women’s employment. Society faces this dilemma because it still hold belief’s that ” normal working mother’s time and working mother’s time are still considered inconsistent.” (Polikoff, p.189) There seems to be a “Catch 22″ to all of this and Polikoff states it when she describes that if a women works to provide the material things for the child, she abandon’s the maternal role. But if she doesn’t work to provide the maternal role required, she cannot provide the material things.(Polikoff, p.190) Therefore she is trapped in an ideological state which revolves around masculinity and gender diversification. In viewing this diversification of gender we can relate it to a sociological theories of both Marx and Engels. In their exploration of ” The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State”, published in 1884, there can be found explanations for this inequality. Marx and Engels found that ” the relational basis for women’s subordination lies in the family, an institution aptly named from the Latin word servant, because the family as it exists in complex societies is overwhelmingly a system of dominant and subordinate roles.” (Ritzer, p.467) In comparing to what Marx and Engels remarked upon and the ideology that Polikoff is addressing is very similar. There seems an almost invisible diversity to the family. Where the father is seen as the stable, economic power, while the mother is the humble subordinate. Although we see the need for class equality. This idea of class, power etc relates directly to the ability of the parent to be granted custody of the child. If the father seeks custody it is more likely he will receive it but, if a women seeks custody as well she must prove herself fit (unlike the father). Polikoff’s article about “Gender and Child Custody Determination” touches upon a interesting subject. Although she is a feminist, she brings to view an interesting stratification that was not seen before. Unlike what the Father’s Right’s Movement claims to be happening to child custody, it would seem that there is a reversal to the cultural beliefs within our society. That this gender stratification is a barrier yet untraveled by our populace and is in need of major reform. Society has to begin to except that mother’s, like father’s, are capable of taking over the task of being the bread winner’ as well as being a parent. Bibliography Families, Politics and Public Policy. ” A Feminist Dialogue on Women and the State”. New York: Longman Inc., 1983 Ritzer, George. Sociological Theories. 3rd Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc,. 1992



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