Marriage and Motherhood in American Film



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The American family has diversified significantly in the past century as women have assumed greater roles outside of the home, and film has been shown to illuminate common societal beliefs and the changing nature of social norms. The purpose of this research study was to examine the ways in which pregnancy and relationship status are portrayed in American film. This study also sought to examine whether common stereotypes about women were also present in film regarding age, race, sexual orientation, employment status, and relationship status as characters transitioned to motherhood. In order to do this, a content analysis was performed that collected both quantitative and qualitative data from a random sampling of 23 films. Results indicated that the majority of films showcased marriage and the nuclear family unit as the ideal and that pregnancies should be carried to term whether characters became pregnant intentionally or not. Ironically, characters who were facing fertility issues and made the decision to adopt were more likely to divorce from their partners by the end of the films. Additionally, qualitative analysis showed that characters in the films were likely to encounter common stereotypes relating to their age, race, and employment status. In conclusion, the results highlight the pervasive nature of societal norms and expectations as they affect pregnancy and motherhood through media sources such as film.



Pregnancy, Motherhood, Stereotypes, Marriage, Film