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Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (Morality and Society Series)

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In the wake of dramatic, recent changes in American family life, evangelical and mainline Protestant churches took markedly different positions on family change. This work explains why these two traditions responded so differently to family change and then goes on to explore how the stances of evangelical and mainline Protestant churches toward marriage and parenting influenced the husbands and fathers that fill their pews.

According to W. Bradford Wilcox, the divergent family ideologies of evangelical and mainline churches do not translate into large differences in family behavior between evangelical and mainline Protestant men who are married with children. Mainline Protestant men, he contends, are “new men” who take a more egalitarian approach to the division of household labor than their conservative peers and a more involved approach to parenting than men with no religious affiliation. Evangelical Protestant men, meanwhile, are “soft patriarchs”—not as authoritarian as some would expect, and given to being more emotional and dedicated to their wives and children than both their mainline and secular counterparts. Thus, Wilcox argues that religion domesticates men in ways that make them more responsive to the aspirations and needs of their immediate families.

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