Gender Differences in Parents’ Prenatal Wishes for their Children’s Future: A Mixed-Methods Study


Every parent-to-be has wishes for his or her child’s future. These wishes might influence parent–child interactions and children’s outcomes, yet little is known about the content of these wishes. The purpose of this mixed-methods investigation was to: (a) examine the different types of prenatal wishes that parents have for their first-born child using qualitative methods; and (b) explore whether parents’ wishes vary as a function of their gender and/or the gender of the child they are expecting, using quantitative methods. Participant interviews (n = 126 couples) from a longitudinal investigation that began in 1992 were used and qualitative analysis of mothers’ transcripts revealed eight wish categories: (1) well-being; (2) personal relationships; (3) particular characteristics; (4) particular goals; (5) personal achievement and responsibility; (6) personal fulfillment; (7) protection; and (8) dependence on the parent. Quantitative analyses revealed that, on average, mothers reported more wishes regarding their future child’s happiness (p < .05) and emotional fulfillment (p < .01), whereas fathers’ wishes focused more on their future child’s characteristics (p < .01), goals (p < .05), and achievement (p < .10). However, mothers’ and fathers’ wishes did not differ according to whether they knew if their future child was a boy or a girl. Although the types of wishes that mothers versus fathers have for their children’s future are generally influenced by the gender stereotypes in which they were raised, findings suggest that both mothers and fathers seem to avoid imposing these gender stereotypes on their future children.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

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Journal of Child and Family Studies