A white father and son place plants in a garden bed together. Image 11481 by Cade Martin, Dawn Arlotta CDC is licensed under CC0.

“He’s on paternity leave,” is a phrase that seems to spell success for gender equality. While previous research has focused on how mothers affect children’s gender views, new research from Australia looks at the role of fathers in the development of children’s and adolescents’ gender values. Tomas Cano and Heather Hofmeister found that when fathers are more engaged with their kids and do more housework, their children are more likely to feel that men and women should have equal power and status in the workplace, world, and home. 

Cano and Hofmeister analyzed 10 years of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children which gathers information about the opinions and routines of children and parents as they age. They used measures of the quality of father-child relationships, and father’s involvement in housework and childcare to assess how different kinds of parental involvement from fathers influences their children’s views on gender equality.

The study found that when fathers spent more time on childcare when children were young, kids are more likely to feel that men and women should be treated equally. When children got older and reached adolescence, different kinds of involvement from fathers had more effect. When fathers with older children take on housework, even in smaller amounts than their wives, their adolescent child is much more likely to express egalitarian views on gender.

The socialization of gender values in Australian adolescents can help us imagine how we could shift the behavior of fathers to promote more egalitarian gender values elsewhere. Further research is necessary to determine if the relationship between these fathering behaviors and children’s gender values is relevant across cultural lines. But the more that is learned about how values are internalized from paternal parenting, the more parents may pay attention to modeling not just what is polite or successful, but also what habits and actions communicate their values. 

A brown teddy bear with a bowtie laying on a hospital bed. Image by Mylene2401 from Pixabay is licensed under Pixabay license.

It’s no secret that childhood can influence the trajectory of adult life. Childhood disadvantages like financial strain and low socioeconomic status impact mental and physical development, which can set the stage for worse health outcomes in adulthood. Matthew A. Andersson and colleagues wanted to understand whether access to quality healthcare might limit the influence of childhood disadvantage on adult well-being.

To answer this question, Andersson and colleagues compared data from 16 countries, testing whether and how the quality and accessibility of European healthcare systems influence the illness rates of adults who experienced adverse childhood events. The researchers measured childhood disadvantage using information on childhood poverty, household conflict, and whether a parent was deceased or away from home. Healthcare quality and access were measured through both objective measures (how many adults in a country experience illness, the amount a country spends on healthcare, and the size of the healthcare system) and subjective measures (whether people in a country felt they had access to high-quality healthcare).

The researchers found that access to a good healthcare system – one that effectively prevents and manages disease –  reduced the effect of childhood adversity on adult health. In fact, the better the quality of a nation’s healthcare system the more it acts as a buffer against poor health outcomes.

This research shows how access to decent healthcare makes a real difference in shaping life outcomes. Quality healthcare may not eliminate childhood adversity, but it can offer the possibility for a healthier future for all.

Ben Crewe, Julie Laursen, and Kristian Mjåland, “Comparing deep-end confinement in England & Wales and Norway,” Criminology, 2023
A tall metal pole with multiple cameras fixed towards the top of the pole, with a dark blue sky with wispy clouds in the background. Image by Thomas Windisch is licensed under Pexels license.

There is prison, then there is prison within prison. Countries vary in their approach to these “deep-end” or high-security prison sections reserved for the most dangerous residents with a history of violence. Ben Crewe, Julie Laursen, and Kristian Mjåland compared two approaches towards these high-security prison units: one in England & Wales, and the other in Norway. After conducting 55 interviews with prisoners in restrictive “deep-end” confinement, the authors compared the experiences of prisoners in England & Wales’s traditional supermax system to Norway’s “inclusive othering.”

In Norway, now famous for its less restrictive prisons, deep confinement is rare and used to protect the outside community. Deep-end prisoners continue to enjoy benefits such as attending educational and job programs alongside the general prison population, lengthy, unsupervised visitation time (including accommodations for sexual activity), and supervised, temporary release for activities such as fishing, shopping, or meals with friends. 

Despite their relative freedom, people in deep-end Norwegian prisons were still concerned about being watched by cameras, the limits placed on their phone calls, and other connections with the outside world, especially in comparison to the general, less restrictive Norwegian prison environment. Lastly, although Norway does not give life sentences, people in the deep-end sometimes do not have a specific release date, leaving some feeling hopeless about serving an indefinite sentence.

In England & Wales, people in the deep-end are isolated for the safety of other prisoners rather than the safety of the outside community. Once isolated, the deep-enders felt far removed from the general population, and they too reported feeling like they were in a “hopeless vacuum,” “on the moon,” or “in a cave.” They also felt that corrections officers used incident reports to target deep-end prisoners. However, some of these deep-end prisoners felt relieved to be removed from the “prison politics” and “batch living” of the general population. Some even reported that less competition with other prisoners provided them with greater access to staff and resources.

This research shows how looking across borders helps us understand both the distinct approaches to managing people who have done serious harm and the human impact of policies that leave some prisoners swimming in the deep-end. Although Norway’s focus on reintegration and openness seems quite different from England & Wales’s focus on “managing unruly groups”, people in both types of deep-end confinement reported feeling isolated, surveilled, and often hopeless.

Six bronze bullets on top of a reflective surface, two fired and four not. Image by MasterTux from Pixabay is licensed under Pixabay license.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more women are killed by their current or former partners than by strangers, and the millions of women in physically abusive relationships are at even greater risk. Because most intimate partner homicides are committed with guns, many states have implemented firearm restrictions on persons convicted of domestic abuse.

Victims of domestic violence often seek emergency restraining orders to help protect themselves and their children. In some states, judges are legally required to order the confiscation of firearms when restraining order petitions contain allegations of physical abuse or threats. These statutes are designed to prevent perpetrators from escalating violence against their current or former partner because firearms are commonly used in intimate partner murders. Research has even shown that this mandatory firearm confiscation lowers homicide risk. Given the importance of mandatory confiscation, judges should be ordering the removal of firearms, right?

Not exactly. Recent research from Julie Kafka, Kathryn Moracco, Deanna Williams, and Claire Hoffman found that judges in North Carolina failed to order firearm confiscation in 61% of protective orders, even when physical violence and/or threats to kill were present. This runs against North Carolina’s mandatory firearm confiscation law in emergency restraining order hearings, and the researchers observed judges failing to verbally announce firearm restrictions during hearings in two-thirds of cases. In other words, judges pick and choose when to follow the law and enforce firearm restrictions for people accused of domestic violence; in most cases, they do not order confiscation. 

This research shows that leaving the confiscation of firearms up to judges maintains access to firearms even after allegations of physical abuse and threats. Kafka and colleagues suggest making confiscation the default or removing the “open-to-interpretation” language in the law. The researchers suggest that better training for judges, monitoring the whereabouts of guns in households with a history of intimate partner violence, and greater domestic rights education for victims could prevent further tragedy.

“Healthcare Justice March – October 26, 2013” by United Workers is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Immigration and healthcare are both major political issues: policies made about these issues have profound impacts on people’s lives. This is especially true for agricultural workers. According to the US Department of Agriculture, about half of the nation’s farmworkers are immigrants. This work is essential to making sure that we have food on our tables. Even in the best of times, farm work is a dangerous business. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse. According to one study, farmworkers faced 4 times the risk of getting COVID as most people.

New research by Rebecca A. Schut and Courtney E. Boen examined the influence of state immigration policy on agricultural workers’ healthcare use. They also compared healthcare usage across various categories, such as race and legal immigration status. Examples of immigration policies that differ across states include to what extent immigrants have access to Medicaid and whether undocumented immigrants can get driver’s licenses.

Overall, Schut and Boen found that white people who did not identify as Latinx (the term used in the paper) and were born in the US used healthcare more often and reported the fewest barriers to care. Differences in state immigration policies, however, had a big impact on the healthcare usage of non-white Latinx agricultural workers with legal immigration status. In states with more restrictive immigration policies, these groups reported less healthcare use and more barriers to seeking care. 

Some examples of barriers to care include not having transportation or money, fearing job consequences if they took time off, believing providers didn’t understand their needs, and not feeling welcome to get care. By contrast, state policies had little effect on the healthcare usage of undocumented workers.

Although undocumented workers did report more barriers, including xenophobia, in states with more restrictive policies, their overall levels of healthcare usage didn’t change significantly. The researchers say that this could be because, due to surveillance and discrimination, undocumented people are already unlikely to use healthcare or other social services, instead relying on their social networks.

The authors argue that while these restrictive policies often target the undocumented, they also affect legal immigrants. In part, this is because they might reinforce stereotypes which associate undocumented legal status with non-white, Latinx immigrant farmworkers for whom English is not their first language. Essentially, Schut and Boen argue, Latinx people who were born in the US or have legal documentation  may be “lumped in” with undocumented people thanks to these stereotypes.

If we want to reduce health disparities, the researchers argue, we need to look at the unintended consequences of non-health related government policies on people’s healthcare usage–especially in the case of restrictive policies that have nativist origins and racialized implications.

A group of white moms dressed in winter coats stand in front of a fence near a sports court. One of them smiles at the camera, another holds a young girl wrapped in a blanket. “Moms at Playground” by Joe Shlabotnik is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Monkey bars, children playing, parents socializing on the benches—these are components of any ordinary playground. Playgrounds provide great opportunities for both children and parents to socialize with neighbors while enjoying the outdoors. But in a new ethnographic study focusing on the behavior of mothers, Paula Paajanen and colleagues find that playgrounds can be a space where informal racial and ethnic segregation is (re)inforced. 

First and second generation immigrants from across Europe, Asia, and Africa make up 25% of the population of Helsinki. Paajanen and colleague’s spent 11 months observing two playgrounds and conducting interviews with mothers in two multi-ethnic neighborhoods in the Finnish capital. The research focused on how the interactions between mothers in these public playgrounds were shaped by their ethnic backgrounds. 

Paanjanen and colleague’s core finding is that social norms both produce and maintain informal ethnic segregation. Finnish mothers were often regular visitors to playgrounds, having a set daily schedule for when they take their kids to the playground. They also expected their kids to play outside most days, no matter the season. Because Finnish mothers frequented the playground and understood these norms, they were more likely to know the “best” time to take their kids to the playground to meet up with other mothers.

Immigrant mothers, on the other hand, didn’t tend to value regular outdoor activity in the same way. Instead, immigrant mothers gave their children more agency with their daily activities. Families went to the playground when the children wanted to go. Immigrant mothers were also less likely to encourage their kids to play outside during the cold winter months, unlike Finnish mothers. These differences in norms and practice made social contact between mothers of different ethnic groups a rare occasion. 

Other factors came into play too. For example, Finnish mothers were more likely to form a small “nuclear group” with other Finnish mothers who also frequented the playground. Rarely did mothers make relationships or engage with other parents outside of these groups who they didn’t already know, these outsiders were more likely to be immigrant mothers.  As one Finnish mother put it: “I rarely go to a playground and start to talk with someone completely unknown to me, whether a local Finn or someone with a foreign background.” Oftentimes mothers who didn’t know each other would avoid direct contact, even when in close proximity. As a result, immigrant mothers had little social interaction with fellow neighborhood moms.

The authors suggest that the social practices that occur on playgrounds are just one example of how everyday actions can regularly produce and reinforce ethnic segregation even when that isn’t the intention. It isn’t hard to imagine that fewer opportunities for social connection between Finnish and immigrant moms prevents familiarity, and even friendships, that could build opposition to the social inequalities and prejudices against migrants that persist in Finland.

A huge American flag covers much of the field at a Philadelphia Eagles game. “American Flagby Peter Miller is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Everyone gets quiet, removes their hats, and puts their hand over their hearts to sing. In center field, soldiers hold the American flag. Fighter jets fly over the stadium as the national anthem plays. Sports are not only about the games, they also provide a platform for the presentation and celebration of all manner of collective identities and values–and in the United States, the message is often about nationalism and the military. In new research, Chris Knoester and Evan Davis examine whether Americans  recognize this  messaging or not.

They used data from the National Sports and Society Survey (NSASS) which asked nearly four thousand Americans, “if they felt sports taught a love of country, respect for the military, competition as a way of life, or how to be Americans.” They found that the vast majority of respondents did not believe that sports teaches nationalistic or militaristic values even while most, 84%, overwhelmingly agreed that sport teaches competition as a way of life.  Given that the United States is one of the few countries in the world which plays the national anthem before sporting events and features armed forces in their ceremonies, their results are intriguing, to say the least. 

Interestingly, respondents who identified as male, heterosexual, Christian, and Republican were most likely to agree that sports teaches patriotic and militaristic values, with Black and Latinx respondents not far behind. In contrast, Americans who were white and college-educated were less likely to believe that sports taught any values. The authors suggest that this could be due to them viewing sports as truly neutral. 

Over the years, sport sociologists have demonstrated that sport  is a place where many Americans learn patriotic, nationalistic, and militaristic ideals. The fact that most Americans don’t believe this, and that those who do tend to be more conservative, less educated, or not white, raises some very important questions about the role of sport in contemporary American culture.

A prison cell block in Faribualt, Minnesota. “Faribault Cell Block 2,” by Minnesota Department of Corrections is licensed under CC0.

Advocates for criminal justice reform have argued that supervisory punishments, such as parole and probation, are a key driver of  mass incarceration even though they are meant to serve as alternatives to prison. This is because people who violate the technical conditions of their supervision are often arrested and reincarcerated. However, new research from Michelle Phelps and colleagues puts some of these concerns into perspective. 

Using data from a national survey of incarcerated adults from 1979 to 2016, the researchers discovered that people in prison for parole and probation violations alone have made up about 11-14% of the prison population – and that this percentage has been remarkably stable over time. The largest percentage of the prison population consists of people incarcerated for new offenses, regardless of whether they were on probation or parole.

This finding suggests that mass incarceration has been driven primarily by increasing punishments for new offenses, rather than increasing enforcement of technical conditions. In order to reduce mass incarceration, the researchers advise that prison reformers should focus on shortening sentence length for new offenses. 

Although parole and probation violations have not contributed as significantly to mass incarceration as originally thought, the researchers caution advocates from diverting their attention from this issue. First, this study focuses on state prison populations and revocations are likely to have an even larger effect on local jail populations. Second, the threat of incarceration alone puts unnecessary stress on those who are on probation and just trying to survive. Incarceration for parole and probation violations contributes to the disorganization and difficulties people can face when they are churned in and out of prison.

A smiling black father kneels, holding one of his child’s hands. “Father Playing With Little Son at Home” by Ksenia Chernaya is licensed under pexels license.

Bundles of joy? Previous research suggests that having children may not be joyful for all parents, especially those who juggle high expectations with inflexible and demanding workplaces or raising children of color in a racially inhospitable world. However, new research from Jennifer Augustine and Mia Brantley finds that the happiness of parents varies by race and gender and in ways that were not entirely expected, especially in comparison to adults without kids.

The study is based upondata from the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults in the United States, between 2010 and 2018. Researchers used questions where participants are asked to rate how happy they are and provide information about  their race and if they have children who they live with. This study also took into account what respondents reported for  r items such as income  or church attendence that previous research has shown influences happiness.

Augustine and Brantley found that there is not a difference in happiness between white fathers and nonfathers, but that white mothers are less happy than white women who are not parents. The existence of a “happiness gap” for white women but not white men may result from cultural expectations that  White mothers be totally devoted to their children despite the necessity for most white moms to work outside the home. Conversely, the fact that white dads are not expected to take equal responsibility for caring for kids might help explain why they are about as happy as men without kids.

This analysis also revealed no difference in happiness between black parents and nonparents. In fact, it found that black fathers are actually happier than their peers without children. These findings suggest that fatherhood is an important and meaningful part of life for many black men, whileblack moms might have ways of coping that help them manage the stress of raising children that white moms lack. Black mothers also may not exhibit a “happiness gap” compared to black nonmothers because black motherhood views work and parenting as complementary and emphasizes the importance of communal care for children, providing important support for moms. 

This study only analyzed data up to 2018, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Future research will have to examine how changing demands on parents during the pandemic, especially virtual schooling, as well as greater attention to police brutality and racial injustice shaped differences in happiness between black and white parents and nonparents. But what this research clearly demonstrates is whether there is a “happiness gap” between parents and adults without children depends on who is doing the parenting and how they are expected to manage their parenting responsibilities with other aspects of their life.

Robert Courtney Smith, Andres Besserer Rayas, Daisy Flores, Angelo Cabrera, Guillermo Yrizar Barbosa, Karina Weinstein, Maria Xique, Michelle Bialeck, and Eduardo Torres, “Disrupting the Traffic Stop–to-Deportation Pipeline: The New York State Greenlight Law’s Intent and Implementation,” Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2021
New York state police parked behind a gray near a highway exit. “New York State Police Traffic Stop” by dwightsghost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Although many of us view traffic stops as a minor inconvenience, a ticket on the commute to school can end in traumatic separation for undocumented immigrants and their children. Using interviews and data from The US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS), Robert Smith and colleagues found that the threat of deportation can jeopardize children’s mental and physical wellbeing. 

Smith and colleagues interviewed undocumented parents who have been pulled over for driving without a license. Parents described stops where the police discovered they were unlicensed and delivered them to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on the side of the road while their children watched. The children in the backseat watching these encounters experienced short and long term emotional harm after police stops and ICE detainment, including nightmares, post traumatic stress disorder and difficulty adjusting to change in family structure. After these arrests, the parents felt that police neglected their children. For example, one mother described how police made her young children walk three miles home unaccompanied on a cold winter night.

Children and parents lived in constant fear that routine trips to school or the doctor would lead to separation after a police stop. This constant fear of separation from parents made it hard for kids to focus in school. One mother reported that her son had to repeat fifth grade because of his anxiety about his mom being deported. Likewise, fear of deportation can also prevent parents from taking their children to routine healthcare visits.  

 Many parents reported that they were stopped by police due to racial profiling.  Researchers found that a majority of people deported after a traffic stop were booked under “No conviction,” meaning that they were not convicted of any crime or driving violation. Instead, many were targeted for stops on account of their racial appearance. Smith and colleagues found that some law enforcement agencies would even work cooperatively with ICE to scout out undocumented people through traffic stops. 

The authors argue that New York’s newly implemented Drivers License Access and Privacy Act, commonly known as the Greenlight law, could prevent these harms to children. The law allows undocumented immigrants in New York to obtain drivers licenses and prevents the DMV from reporting them to ICE. However, the government’s implementation of the Greenlight law has been inconsistent, weakening its effects. In the small number of counties where Greenlight licenses are offered, lack of funding restricts the amount of licenses that the DMV can administer per day. Some DMV offices refuse to offer services in Spanish and make Greenlight applicants, but not standard license applicants, wait outside in the cold. 

The researchers suggest that universal implementation of the Greenlight law and more thoughtful policing of Latinx communities could eliminate the harm to children and families that comes from police stops, ICE detainment, and family separation. Other solutions include expanding busing to communities with large immigrant populations. This would ensure that children have a safe ride to school and parents would not have to risk deportation by driving unlicensed. These efforts could address the reality that short and routine car trips put some immigrant families at risk of police contact and the harm and separation that can follow.