“Mommy Wars” in the Popular Culture

Reeve Vanneman, University of Maryland
Joanna Kling, University of Maryland

We compare computer searches of the phrase “mommy wars” against more conventional content analyses of the New York Times and the Washington Post about themes of conflict between employed mothers and stay-at-home mothers. We find that both computer searches and traditional content analyses record a rise in mommy war themes beginning in the 1990s and accelerating rapidly in the first decade of this century. However, the content analyses date the rise of “Mommy Wars” themes noticeably earlier than do the computer searches for the phrase itself. That timing difference is theoretically important because the computer searches date the rise in the “Mommy Wars” theme well after the stall in the gender revolution while traditional content analyses show the rise to precede the stall. Other Google books searches, however, especially those with more general themes (e.g., “working mothers” or even “women”) track the rise and stall in gender equality more closely.

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Presented in Session 66: Digital Records for Demographic Research