Mother's Gatekeeping in Complex Families: Studying Mother's Long Term Impact on the Ties between Adult Children, Biological Fathers and Stepfathers

Maaike Hornstra, University of Amsterdam
Katya Ivanova, University of Amsterdam
Matthijs Kalmijn, University of Amsterdam

This study examines whether mothers’ gatekeeping position in mother-father-child triads affects the quality of adult children’s relationships with different father-figures. Maternal gatekeeping arises when mothers engage in behaviors that either facilitate or inhibit the involvement of other parent figures in children’s lives. In contrast to previous work, we consider the child’s relations both to resident stepfathers and divorced nonresident biological fathers and examine: (a) how the mother-father and mother-stepfather tie affect adult children’s closeness to the father-figures, and (b) whether the mother equally benefits or hampers the two father-figures. Hypotheses were tested using a multiple parent design. That is, respondents can have multiple types of parent figures present in the data, enabling us to make within-child comparisons using fixed-effects models. This design could be employed by using OKiN, a large-scale multi-actor survey in which respondents growing up in complex family structures were oversampled. While prior research has primarily focused on young children or adolescents, this paper provides insights on the long-term role of mothers in offspring-father relationships.

Presented in Session 28: Family Complexity and Diversity