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Emotions and empathic imagination: Parents relating to norms of work, parenthood and gender equality

Journal article
Authors Sofia Björk
Published in Families, Relationships and Societies
Volume 7
Issue 2
Pages 171-186
ISSN 2046-7435
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 171-186
Language en
Keywords emotion work, empathic imagination, parenthood, gender equality
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


This article examines how Swedish parents relate emotionally to norms regarding parenthood, work and gender equality. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with seven mothers and six fathers, and using perspectives from the sociology of emotions, the article shows how norms influence parents’ lives through the feelings they evoke and prescribe, and how these emotions are managed. The parents’ responses reveal how they managed emotions via ‘empathic imagination’ of their children’s feelings in relation to gendered norms of parenthood and ideals of a ‘good childhood’. The ideals of gender equality in relation to work–life balance were found to include gendered emotion regimes, enabling fathers to feel pleasure and comfort as the emotion rules converged with those of involved parenthood, while mothers faced conflicting emotion regimes. Some parents were able to negotiate norms through their emotion work, making certain transgressions of norms unproblematic or sometimes even a source of pride.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-04-10