Dads and Social Capital

By Jeremy Adam Smith | July 23, 2007 | 0 comments

Over at the blog Daddy Dialectic, my esteemed colleague "Chicago Pop" meditates on the relationship between caregiving dads and social capital:

Is it worth the time for a dad to get involved with a playground clique of mostly moms?

The idea of social capital would suggest that the answer to [that] question is "yes," because cliques of neighborhood moms are much more than social groups: they are information networks. Without a doubt they are highly gendered, based on forms of sociability that are heavily feminized according to traditional gender constructions. But in a "networked" society, this form of sociability is now where the advantage now lies — across the board, not just with regard to parenting — and women therefore have a distinct edge.

It's an interesting observation, and an interesting way to look at stay-at-home parents. Chicago Pop continues:

In an economy in which the general ability to network is now a fundamental survival skill, more and more men are likely to feel comfortable adopting the hitherto strictly feminine practice of kibitzing at the playpark in order to gain access to vital childcare knowledge, support, and healthy camaraderie.

But this means that the issues involved in discussions of reverse-traditional families, or gender equality in childcare, need to expand beyond the core concerns of labor and reward, to include basic practices of sociability that can have tremendous impact on the future prospects of one's child. Blogs about at-home dads are certainly one step in that direction. But because most educational and daycare questions are unavoidably local, nothing beats face-time on the neighborhood mommy beat. The 'strong, silent type' of dad will be a disaster when it comes to setting a child up for academic success, even if he outdoes mom in terms of diapers washed and dishes cleaned. Much of what is most valuable in parenting resides in intangible but significant networks of information and the ability to access the network at different points.

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About The Author

Jeremy Adam Smith edits the GGSC’s online magazine, Greater Good. He is also the author or coeditor of four books, including The Daddy Shift, Are We Born Racist?, and The Compassionate Instinct. Before joining the GGSC, Jeremy was a 2010-11 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. You can follow him on Twitter!


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