A gatekeeper parent, typically a mother, is one who takes to arrogating themselves the power to decide what relationship is acceptable between the other parent and the child(ren), either within a marriage, or outside any formal agreement between the two parents was in place after a divorce settlement. It can also be referred to as "Maternal Gatekeeping".
Most maternal gatekeeping situations are studied with consenting married couples who are first time parents. Parenting situation studies using divorced couples and out-of-wedlock parenting relationships that show very similar or identical behavioral characteristics as married couples with children are usually studied under the topics: Parental Interference and Parental Alienation.
A Gatekeeper parent exhibits themselves under the following categories:
- Criticizes the way other parent/spouse/ex-spouse accomplished the task
- Creates unbending or unrealistic standards for other parent/spouse/ex-spouse to meet
- Demeans or undermines other parent's efforts at being an authority figure in the child(ren's) lives
- Oversees the chores that the other parent/spouse works on
- Does all the organizing, delegating, planning, and scheduling in the home
- Becomes reluctant to let go of some of the responsibility for caring for your family
- Needs a great deal of validation of their identity as a parent, both from the other parent/spouse/ex-spouse and from outside the marriage or parenting relationship
- Believes in the traditional roles assigned to husbands and wives
- Views the other parent/spouse/ex-spouse as a helper and not an equal when it comes to household chores and child-care responsibilities
- Asks the other parent/spouse/ex-spouse for help and then gives explicit directions on how to accomplish a task
- Secretly feels thrilled when the other parent/spouse/ex-spouse shows some incompetence around the house or the kids
- Feel threatened or at a loss if the child(ren) gets hurt and runs to the other parent for comfort
Inside a marriage, the characteristics and symptoms may already be apparent with one parent being relegated to second tier status and disenfranchised in regards to their parenting skills or their ability to practice and nurture their own set of skills, this typically being the father. This lends itself to the dominant parent taking complete control of the household and it causes severe resentment and sense of helplessness in the other's parenting relationship. In a post divorce situation, the symptoms may be considered: limiting of contact, visitation interference, verbal and psychological abuse, alienating the children from the other parent through derogatory remarks and actions.
It is yet to be determined or even studied as to whether or not Maternal Gatekeeping is a different syndrome from Parental Interference and Parental Alienation or if the two are just a more severe form of gatekeeping only exacerbated by a high conflict breakdown of the relationship between the two parents. High conflict circumstances already visible in the marriage can lead to false accusations of incompetence, neglect, or abuse of the children by one parent against the other once the relationship is being adjudicated in a divorce preceding. No current studies have been published to link the three syndromes and the American Psychological Association has not ruled or identified any of the 3 as recognized syndromes in any of its publications. The APA has no stance on the 3 theories and therefore they cannot be considered as dispproved nor validated. Independent individual studies of all three are still in progress with findings to be published later.
"Mothers' Beliefs and Behaviors That Inhibit Greater Father Involvement in Family" Allen, Sarah M. and Alan J. Hawkins. 1999. Journal of Marriage and the Family 61(1):199-212.
Maternal Gatekeeping: Do mothers limit fathers' involvement with their kids? Raeburn, Paul. June 13, 2008 Psychology Today
Maternal Gatekeepers - - What You Can Do About Maternal Gatekeeping Maternal Gatekeepers - - Subtle Sabotage By Sheri & Bob Stritof, About.com
Maternal gatekeeping, coparenting quality, and fathering behavior in families with infants. Schoppe-Sullivan, Sarah J.; Brown, Geoffrey L.; Cannon, Elizabeth A.; Mangelsdorf, Sarah C.; Sokolowski, Margaret Szewczyk Journal of Family Psychology. Vol 22(3), Jun 2008, 389-398.