Published on Fri Feb 25 2022

How Do Mothers and Fathers Talk About Parenting to Different Audiences?: Stereotypes and Audience Effects: An Analysis of r/Daddit, r/Mommit, and r/Parenting Using Topic Modelling

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While major strides have been made towards gender equality in public life, serious inequality remains in the domestic sphere, especially around parenting. The present study analyses discussions about parenting on Reddit to explore audience effects and gender stereotypes. It suggests a novel method to study topical variation in individuals' language when interacting with different audiences. Comments posted in 2020 were collected from three parenting subreddits, described as being for fathers (r/Daddit), mothers (r/Mommit), and all parents (r/Parenting). Users posting on r/Parenting and r/Daddit or on r/Parenting and r/Mommit were assumed to identify as fathers or mothers, respectively, allowing gender comparison. Users' comments on r/Parenting (to a mixed-gender audience) were compared with their comments to single-gender audiences on r/Daddit or r/Mommit using LDA topic modelling. Results showed that the most discussed topic among parents is about education and family advice, a topic mainly discussed in the mixed-gender subreddit and more by fathers than mothers. Regarding the basic needs of children (sleep, food, and medical care), mothers seemed to be more concerned regardless of the audience. In contrast, topics such as birth and pregnancy announcements and physical appearance were more discussed by fathers in the father-centric subreddit. Overall, findings seem to show that mothers are generally more concerned about the practical sides of parenting while fathers' expressed concerns are more contextual: with other fathers, there seems to be a desire to show their fatherhood and be recognized for it while they discuss education with mothers. These results demonstrate that concerns expressed by parents on Reddit are context-sensitive but also consistent with gender stereotypes, potentially reflecting a persistent gendered and unequal division of labour in parenting.