Publications from Dissertation Research

Verduzco-Baker, Lynn. Forthcoming. "'I don’t want them to be a statistic':  Mothering Practices of Low-Income Mothers."  In Journal of Family Issues: The Mother Issue.

 U.S. discourse on low-income mothers frames them as social problems and this presumption of deficiency is reflected in studies of parenting logics and practices. Scholars find that low-income mothers have the same goals for their children as middle-class mothers and that they work as hard to care for them, however, differences between their parenting practices and those of middle-class mothers are interpreted to result from their lack of resources and corresponding adherence to a parenting logic that emphasizes the provision of material necessities, discipline and leisure time rather than the cultivation of reasoning/negotiating skills, self-esteem and talents. This interpretation underestimates the sophistication of low-income mothers’ parenting logic. 

In this article, based on close analysis of 34 semi-structured interviews, I investigate the lived experiences and parenting logics of both African American and white low-income mothers. These women demonstrate a logic that explicitly addresses obstacles they believe prevent members of their community from reaching their goals: addiction, drug dealing, pregnancy, abusive relationships and “the street”. This logic leads to practices that may appear to be similar to or inexpensive adaptations of middle-class practices, however, analysis of the mothers’ narratives reveals they are not derivative of middle-class practices but are intended to prepare children to avoid perils of their social context. By allowing meanings of the women’s parenting logics and practices to emerge from their narratives rather than through juxtaposition with middle-class norms, a model that leads to an appearance of deficiency, I illuminate a previously misunderstood version of intensive mothering.

“Charmed Circle of Motherhood: Intersections of Race, Age, Class & Gender in the Construction of Good and Bad Mothers.” Revise and Resubmit for Gender & Society.


U.S. public and political discourse frames young and low-income mothers as social problems and “bad mothers”. This study builds upon research documenting the efforts of stigmatized mothers to redefine themselves as “good” mothers by examining how narratives of motherhood undermine these women despite their best (and admirable) efforts to live up to the standards of the “good” mother. The article combines the close analysis of interviews with both Black and white women who had children as teenagers with an innovative adaptation of Gayle Rubin’s influential concept of a “charmed circle” of cultural assumptions about acceptable sexualities to demonstrate how these mothers actively negotiate intersecting and overlapping stereotypes of race, age and class as they position themselves as “good” mothers and how the “bad” mother narrative proves to be impervious to challenges given that a successful challenge must first dismantle gendered constructions of race, age and class.


Other Publications


Martin, Karin, Lynn Verduzco-Baker, Jennifer Torres and Katherine P. Luke. 2011.  “Privates, Pee-Pees and Coochies:  Gender and Genital Labelling for/with Young Children” in Feminism & Psychology, Vol 21(3).

Second wave feminists argued that early bodily knowledge was necessary for women’s sexual health and well-being.  Using survey data from over 600 mothers, we ask if, decades after the sexual revolution and the height of second wave feminism, mothers now use anatomically accurate names for genitals with boys and girls?  We also ask how children participate in genital labeling with mothers.  We found about equal proportions of mothers used anatomical names with boys as with girls. Further, mothers used more common childish names with boys while using “privates” or vague terms more with girls.  Children were also active participants in the naming of their genitals as they altered mothers’ words through mispronunciations, (mis)interpretations, and adoption of words acquired elsewhere. 

Martin, Karin, Katherine P. Luke and Lynn Verduzco-Baker. 2007. “The Sexual Socialization of Young Children: Setting the Agenda for Research”. In Social Psychology of Gender, edited by Shelley J. Correll. New York: Elsevier Science/JAI.

In this chapter we reinvigorate socialization as a theoretical framework for studying gender and sexuality, and we do so by focusing attention on the sexual socialization of young children. We provide an overview of the literature on the sexual socialization of young children.  We discuss why researchers should be interested in childhood sexuality, the role of parents, peers and schools, and the media in sexual socialization. We also address three overarching issues: methodology, the hegemony of heterosexuality, and child sexual abuse.  Throughout, we suggest and organize some of the empirical questions that form a research agenda for those interested in this topic.

Martin, Karin and Lynn Verduzco-Baker. “Differences in Mothers’ Sexual Education of Young Children Between 1976 and 2006: Social-Sexual Transformations of Early Childhood.”  Revise and Resubmit for Journal of Sex Research.

To download CV (pdf) click here.

The social-sexual transformations of the past forty plus years have been enormous, especially for adults and adolescents.  This paper examines whether anything has changed for young children.  Specifically, we examine whether and how mothers’ sexual education of their young children has changed by comparing the survey results from a 1976 study of mothers and and a 2006 study of mothers of young children.  We investigate whether mothers talk more about some sexual topics today than they did in the past, whether  there has been an increase in the number of topics discussed by mothers, and how mothers’ understandings and experiences of sexually educating their children may have changed.  We find that mothers do talk more with young children than in the past, especially about pregnancy, sexual abuse, and homosexuality.  However, we also find that mothers find such talk more difficult than in the past, and fewer mothers feel like they are doing a good job with the task.  We discuss how these changes may be a product of the tensions between the discourse of the romantic child and the emerging discourse of the knowing child.

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