Institute of Sociology

Prenatal re-traditionalization

This project focuses on prenatal classes. So far, there is very little research concerning this social institution. We focus on its significance for a well-proven phenomenon: the effect of “traditionalization” that arrives with the birth of the first child and is characterized by a gender-stereotypical division of labor in families. In our project, we scrutinize if and how this effect is initiated already during pregnancy: What is expected of ‘mothers’ might be already internalized and practiced in childbirth preparation classes.

Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project duration: 1.12.2016 - 30.11.2019

Project leaders: Prof. Dr. Marion Müller (Universität Tübingen), Dr. Nicole Zillien (Universität Gießen)

Project staff: Dr. Sophie Merit Müller; Julia Gerstewitz, M. A.; Marie-Fleur Philipp

Former staff: Dr. Cecilia Colloseus; Milena Sigler; Theresa Weyand; Paul Schreiber; Christina Friesen

The project „Prenatal retraditionalization? An empirical analysis of childbirth preparation classes and pregnancy forums“ is located at the Universities of Gießen and Tübingen. It focuses on the reasons for gender-differentiating division of labor in families after the birth of the first child (retraditionalization). Following the assumption that certain responsibilities (i.e. child care or paid work) are gendered and allocated already during pregnancy, the project scrutinizes childbirth preparation classes (Section I – Tübingen) and internet forums for expectant mothers (Section II – Gießen). How are pregnancy, birth giving and parenthood interpreted in these contexts and how do these interpretations make processes of retraditionalization more likely to happen?

The Tübingen section of the project is concerned with the following question: In what way does the knowledge taught in prenatal classes implicate normative expectations for the mothers (or parents)? The Gießen section analyzes internet forums for pregnant women as an additional way for expectant mothers to gain (normative?) knowledge about giving birth and motherhood. In a second step, these two ethnographic studies are systematically compared, focusing on the different communicative ways of knowledge transfer: What difference does it make if knowledge is transferred in a face-to-face interaction versus a computer-mediated, purely verbal form of communication?