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Gender and parenthood: Do mums and dads speak the same language?

When it comes to parenthood, assumptions are often made about the gender roles at play. “Fathers provide financial security”, “mothers offer nurture and care”. While many of these stereotypes can be seen as redundant, it’s true that men and women bring different qualities to the table.

But how do these two demographics speak about parenting and becoming parents? Do mums and dads stay true to their assumed societal roles? Or do their conversations tell another side of the story?

We wanted to dig deeper beneath the surface and understand more about how men and women speak about parenting – in their own voice, and not that which is all too often fashioned for them.

Using text analysis

Using Relative Insight, a comparison-based text analysis platform, we analysed thousands of online forum conversations exclusively about parenting. Firstly, we collected data from dedicated mum and dad forums. Then we uploaded this raw language data to Relative Insight. We compared the equivalent discourse of mums and dads, creating a clear demographic analysis based on gender.

At Relative, we care about the differences in language because often that’s where perspective is found. Our technology pinpoints the words, phrases, grammar, topics and emotion unique to each demographic. Comparison brings to light key insights for each group, enabling brands and charities to optimise messaging for each gender accordingly.

First up, dads

Our comparative text analysis discovered that men talk about their desire to be the best possible father they can be. There is no in-between. Dads and dads-to be use adjectives such as greatest and cool 3.7x more than their female equivalents and speak about trying harder to be a better dad. What perhaps is most interesting is that men feel they must try to be good at parenting, which was not a dominant theme in the conversations of women.

With comparison, you never know what you might find. One heart-warming insight we discovered was that dads are 4.5x more likely than mums to discuss first times, including first scans, ultrasounds and hearing the heartbeat. Men described the moment as surreal. There’s no question that these events are special for both parents, however, it seems that for men, this is the moment when the prospect of bringing a child into the world becomes reality.

Throughout their discussions, we saw that men are also 2.4x more likely to mention words such as respect and praise than their female counterparts. This was often in the context of describing a newfound respect for their partners and other parents.

How about mums?

While Relative’s technology overcomes the confirmation bias of hypothesis-driven searching, often the comparative approach can confirm suspicions too. In this case, we found that mothers are more likely to speak about the vast array of emotions involved with parenting, such as fear, worry, and anxiety. This confirms the fact that females are much more open about their emotions, in comparison to men who are often considered as a gender to keeps their feelings private. Furthermore, it emphasises the idea that women sense a maternal instinct, a word which was completely absent in dads’ conversations.

Whereas dads discussed the first scans, soon-to-be mums are 5.1x more likely to comment on the details and timeline of their entire pregnancy, referring to the different trimesters and various symptoms they experienced. Forums provide women with a safe space to share their individual experiences, where they can openly talk about the specific trials that a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy.

In a similar vein, forums act as a support network for mothers. Although studies vary, it’s estimated that around 25% of women experience prenatal depression. Not to mention the statistics of postnatal depression, which affects 1 in 7 mothers. Our analysis found that women are infinitely more likely to speak about being lonely in comparison to men. Charities, healthcare professionals and even brands must continue to address this and create inclusive messaging that helps women deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

When it comes to tailoring communications and messaging, considering the intricacies of different genders can provide optimal scope for brands, charitable organisations and marketeers. Through language comparison, Relative Insight can arm you with powerful audience insights and enable you to gain a deeper understanding of specific segments.

If you want to know more about demographic analysis, sign up to attend our upcoming webinar event “Are you passing the vibe check? How to talk to Gen Z”.

Speak to our team!