Gender Equality or Primacy of the Mother? Ambivalent Descriptions of Good Parents


Faculty of Education, University of Jyväskylä, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland ( or


The ideology of gender equality is accepted as the norm in the Nordic countries. When asked to describe what they thought was required to be a good mother and a good father, Finnish informants (N = 387) showed uneasiness in describing good parents separately, however, often describing only a good mother. This article aims to explore the ambivalent stance toward gender equality reflected in these descriptions. The mother is seen as the model against which the father is compared. Moreover, the ambivalence noted could indicate a contradiction between how things are and how they should be. Ambivalence here is located between structural, sociological, and psychological levels, reflects the ambivalent rhetoric of welfare officials, and is possibly the result of social change.