Invisible or involved fathers? A content analysis of representations of parenting in young children's picturebooks

Matthew Adams, Carl Walker, Paul O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although sex-role stereotyping in children’s books is a consistent focus of research, the study of the gender role stereotyping of parenting in children’s media is less common, despite a developing academic interest in the changing social meanings of fathering and mothering in contemporary societies. Previous analysis, though scarce, has suggested that fathers are under-represented in general and when present, are less likely to be seen expressing affection towards, or caring for, children than mothers. In this study we revisited representations of mothers and fathers in children’s picturebooks, updating previous research via numerous methodological developments. A content analysis of a representative sample of all young children’s picturebooks featuring representations of parents was undertaken. The results offered qualified support for previous research, and found additional differences in terms of presence around the home, emotional expression, appearances with, and contact with, children. The significance of the finding of no difference between parental sex in terms of childcare activity and explicit nurturing activity is considered in terms of a possible shift from invisible to involved fatherhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-270
Number of pages12
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

© 2011 Springer Verlag. The final publication is available at


  • children’s literature
  • fathers
  • gender stereotypes
  • mothers
  • parents
  • picturebooks


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