Dear Habermas Logo A Jeanne Site

Pass? or Prepared?
on Welfare Mothers and Child Care Satisfaction

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: March 31, 2000
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Rudiger Appel's Figurine and Link to his site.The Problem with Incarcerating Mothers

Go to Parents' Child Care Preferences: Patterns among Welfare Mothers. Find this paragraph of interpretation under the heading: Characteristics of Care Predicting Mother's Satisfaction with Arrangement, a little more than halfway down the file.

"Mothers with children between the ages of 3 and 5 are significantly more satisfied with their child care when they think that their child feels happy about the arrangement and has an opportunity to learn new things. They are also more satisfied with their care when they think the caregiver has less experience caring for children, These dimensions of care are not significant independent predictors of mothers' satisfaction with care for children under 3. While the first two findings appear consistent with the developmental growth of children, the finding about the negative effect of a caregiver's experience seems counterintuitive. Perhaps caregiver's experience is masking the effect of an unmeasured variable like enthusiasm, but'we can only speculate why this unusual pattern emerges."

At p. 205 of Kathryn Watterson's Women in Prison, Northeastern University Press, 1996:
I am a woman.
I know.

I know every time I see,
through the glass of this cage,
a child, playing---laughing
and my heart aches to see my own child.

---Joanne "Friday" Fry,
California Institution for Women
1. Is the welfare mother stereotypically perceived as a loving, caring mother who puts her concern for her children above herself?

Answer: No, the more typical stereotype is of a young woman who doesn't want to work and who has children for the sake of the free income.

2. Do you think that most people would entertain a stereotypical image of the incarcerated mother as non-caring?

Answer: Since there is a negative value judgment by many people for "living on welfare," cognitive dissonance theory would explain why people might extrapolate that negative value judgment to the non-caring stereotype of the welfare mother. There is an even more negative value judgment by most people for "incaraceration." Since non-caring is one of the stereotypical extensions of that judgment for welfare mothers, it might well be a stereotypical extension of the negative image for "incarcerated" mothers.

One aspect of this negative judgement is that it permits people not living on welfare, and people not incarcerated to salve their consciences by viewing the victim as deserving the harm brought about by the structural systems of welfare and incarceration. It is more comfortable not to think of the mother's tender concern for her children.

3. What was the welfare mothers' primary concern in evaluating child care?

Answer: The welfare mothers' primary concern in evaluation child care was whether or not the child was happy with the situation.

4. Is this primary concern consistent with the view of the incarcerated person as "bad"?

Answer: No, the mothers' concern for the child's satisfaction with the situation is inconsistent with the stereotypical image of the convicted felon as "bad," and therefore deserving of incarceration, no matter its social costs.

5. Can you offer a theoretical explanation for our willingness to hold on to our stereotypical beliefs in spite of such evidence as studies like this one offer?

Answer: One theoretical explanation would be that of cognitive dissonance. The theory of cognitive dissonance suggests that humans, and the human love of rationality, lead us to maintain consistency amongst our many beliefs and belief systems. For example, if Mommy and Daddy love me, then Mommy and Daddy should love each other. It is hard for us rationally to understand that Daddy is divorcing Mommy, but he loves me. The two positions are dissonant. And they make us uncomfortable.

Likewise, the concept of a loving, caring mother is inconsistent with the stereotypical concept of a welfare mother and of an incarcerated mother. Thus, we tend to not hear in good faith the image that makes us uncomfortable, the one of the caring, loving mother.

BACK to Question and Choices.

Figurine by Rudiger Appel. Notice that you can see three effects in the animation. Either the Variation on the Kandinsky figurine appears to turn in a clockwise direction, or in a counterclockwise direction, or it appears to open and close. Can you see all three effects? Try. Fascinated? Link to Appel's site and then link to the background he provides. Scroll down until you find a link to background.

Chantessy's Page Chantessy's Mardi Gras Alphabet was originally used on this page. We changed it because it was too distracting as eye candy. Chantessy was the first contributor to our Kids' Site when we began Dear Habermas. Visit her page. Check out the sliders puzzles on her fun page. Or check out her candy box and send a friend a posty. Non-violent ways to respond to structural violence in the academy! It's great fun.