Melissa McCall

Nurture or Neglect: Race, Gender, and the Social Psychology of Misogyny

Laws that govern child neglect rely on subjective judgments about risk to a child. Where laws are ambiguous, people may be influenced by culturally embedded stereotypes about a parent’s intersecting social identities. For Black mothers who work outside the home, these stereotypes create a double bind, because Black mothers are simultaneously expected to work and care for their children. Using an experimental design, I examine how lay decision makers assess risk to an unattended child differently, based on a parent’s race and gender, and decide whether or not to report the parent to Child Protective Services or to the police. This study should shed light on a psychological mechanism that helps to explain why Black families are more likely to be reported for abuse and neglect than White families, why their cases are more likely to be investigated, and why Black children are more likely to be removed from the home. Using the same theoretical framework, a second study explores how perceptions of essential workers’ identities in the COVID-19 pandemic affect the assessment of risk to workers’ families, and support for policies that would guarantee affordable childcare for parents who must continue to go to work while schools are closed.