Grandparents Custody and Visitation Rights

A Look into Grandparents’ Custody and Visitation Rights: The Importance of a Grandchild-Grandparent Relationship 

Monica Rios

University of Texas Pan-American

The population is aging in the United States; in the start of the twentieth century only half of twenty year olds had living grandparents compared to the 90% that was calculated in 2000 (Quadagno, pg 192).  Notably, this was due to increased life expectancy, which eventually leads to people occupying longer intergenerational relationships with family members (Quadagno, 2009).  Obviously, the family structure has changed along with the population, times are changing and so are the people; divorce rates have raised from 10% in the early to mid twentieth century to 50% in 2000 (Quadagno, 2009).  When a person is getting divorced and in need of assistance, they turn to their family members; which are usually the child’s grandparents, for support.

This is why Grandparent rights are an important topic for society as a whole for three beneficial reasons: First, grandparents give stability and security to their grandchildren and during a family crisis such as divorce or death children need stability; Second, it can be traumatic for a child to lose contact with a loving family member during a time when they need them the most; Lastly, just because a parent wants to cut ties from the grandparent does not mean the child wishes to sever ties as well. In addition, according to Quadagno, the involvement of grandparents in a family structure is important because it serves as a support bank for the parents and is valuable in the development of a child (2009).

Grandparents’ are a unique member of the extended family; they can serve just about any role that is needed of them: a role model, a listener, a babysitter, or a surrogate parent.  The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is important because visits with grandparents are a precious and beneficial experience that a child cannot derive from any other relationship (Fernandez, 1988).  Equally, the relationship a child creates with their grandparents is a happy and healthy one (Fernandez, 1988).  However, grandparents are excluded from many state statutes for visitation and custody.  The rights grandparents currently have are minimal when it comes to gaining custody of their grandchildren (in all types of cases), with their limitations increasing and their chances of gaining visitation becoming increasingly narrow (Ognibene, 2005).  Visitation rights are extremely hard to receive for grandparents, even more if the visitation is objected by the child’s legal parent and only under “special circumstances” is when a grandparent may be granted visitation (Stein, 2007).  My goal is to evaluate current grandparent rights (or lack there of) for visitation and custody of a grandchild and demonstrate the importance of a grandparent-grandchild relationship.

These policy issues are of concern for current and future grandparents in the United States, they affect every parents’ ability to see their grandchildren if anything should arise.  Federal and state laws determine grandparent rights; state laws has its limitations and challenges in awarding custody or visitation rights for grandparents.  Above all, the Supreme Court is reluctant to expand enumerated rights to grandparents by the Due Process Clause (Stein, 2007).  The Supreme Court sees that an extension of the Due Process Clause to grandparents will continue to be a never-ending process, because the constitutional protection of a grandparent-grandchild relationship can lead to the requests of constitutional protection to any extended family member (Stein, 2007).

Before a person can ask for custody of a child, they would need to be capable to “stand” for petition, and grandparents are not included in the preference for grants of custody in most state statutes (Ognibene, 2005).  This is shown in an article from Michelle Ognibene (2005), she stated, “Generally, state law does not require petitioners for adoption to notify grandparents of adoption proceedings, nor does it require grandparents’ consent” (pg 1475).  She then proceeds to explain that the courts may even deny grandparents the right to intervene in any parental termination case, following with the state taking the child away and not allowing the opportunity for grandparents to offer an alternative home for the child (Ognibene, 2005).  Once parents rights are terminated, so are the grandparents and once a child has gone into foster care or has been adopted, it can mean the end of the grandparents relationship with the child (Ognibene, 2005).  It is not stated in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but it provides an in context assertion that grandparents can have greater rights in custody; considering that “grandparents have a fundamental liberty interest in their familial integrity and companionship with their grandchildren” (Ognibene, 2005, pg 1477).  Although, grandparents are not protected by the constitution per say, there are still ways in which grandparents can be extended some protection found in constitutional protection in family matters (Ognibene, 2005).

One way a grandparent can gain custody of their grandchild is by asserting the freedom on intimate association, where grandparents demonstrate that their relationship with their grandchild is so essential and intimate that they fall within the Fourteenth Amendments protection of “liberty” (Ognibene, 2005).  Nevertheless, there are still challenges that grandparents still face when asserting towards this protection, there are many state statutes that require a grandparent who is petitioning custody of a child to prove that the two do in fact have an emotional attachment that is in the child’s best interest (Nielson and Bucaria, 2009).  Lastly, if a parent has been considered unfit or has abandoned the child, a grandparent has a good case in gaining the custody of their grandchild (Nielson and Bucaria, 2009, pg 525)

At common law, grandparents did not have the right to petition visitation rights for their grandchildren; with recognition, acting without federal interventions, all fifty states enacted statutes by the year 2000 (Stein, 2007).  The statutes enacted gave grandparents the right to petition courts for visitation rights over the objection of a fit parent (Stein, 2007).  In other words, even if parents had made the decision that they did not want grandparents to have visitation towards their child, grandparents were then allowed to petition against it.  However, there are still some limitations that grandparents face in their thought of petitioning.  One limitation is, a majority of state statutes do not grant grandparents the right to petition visitation if both of the child’s parents are still married.  Another limitation is that some statutes require the grandparent to prove that the child’s parents have been divorced or separated for a certain period before being able to petition for custody.  Lastly, if one parent is deceased or has been missing for a long period; then a grandparent is able to petition for custody of a child.

Moreover,  since the family structure has dramatically changed due to high divorce rates, AIDS, the acceptance of single parenthood, and excessive substance abuse; there is consensus that the grandparents assume the roles of primary caretaker towards their grandchildren (Stein, 2007).  The fact that some state statutes are acknowledging these changes and their effects on the modern family and because of this conferring grandparent rights, thus, it increases the number of custodial care of children for parents that cannot and will not do (Stein, 2007).

I will be focusing on the importance of a nurturing intergenerational grandparent-grandchild relationship and how it is sometimes overlooked within state statutes, custody, and visitation cases.  The evaluation of these policies that have been enacted with increasing limitation makes it incredibly hard for a current grandparent to gain custody or visitation towards their grandchildren, especially, when the child has been put under custody of the state or has been adopted.  This influences future cohorts, since anyone who currently has children or will have children in the future may be put in any situation without knowledge or recognition of what their rights are, he will be affected in the loss of a loved one.

The recognition of the value of intergenerational relationships and its importance are currently noted in most of the resources used for this paper; most state statutes hardly acknowledge the role of the grandparent (through rights) in the case of custody for a child.  What I first noticed when reading the resources was that the courts first focus is on “what is in the best interest of child”, when making determinations.  According to Tara Nielson and Robin Bucaria (2009), the courts look at the “totality of the circumstance” because they are no longer required to base a decision on one fact (pg 571).  They state, “the courts take into account: the wishes of the parent (s); the wishes of the child; the relationship between the child and the parent (s), siblings, or any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interest” (Tara Nielson and Robin Bucaria, 2009, pg 571).  This sums up what I have read in what courts use when determining most custody and visitation cases that involves a child.  Michelle Ognibene (2005) also acknowledges a child’s best interest, she explains that many state statutes contain a preference of granting custody to those who have the closest emotional ties to the child.  Ognibene’s (2005) view on state statutes in a child’s best interest and adoption is, “although adoption ultimately turns on a determination of the child’s best interest, a failure to notify grandparents adequately, or to prefer their petitions, ought to be regarded as a violation of the grandparents right to due process”(pg 1473).  Ognibene’s article constitutionally analyzed grandparent’s rights and focused on the imbalance statutory framework that left grandparents in the dark by not requiring preference or notifying them when their grandchildren were put into state custody; thus, disadvantaging the grandparents when trying to compete with the state officials and foster care (Ognibene, 2005).  Like Ognibene’s views on the rights for grandparents to become first in line to petition for their grandchildren; Patricia Fernandez (1988) shows a similar view when she says: “even if adoption is in the best interest of the child, the disruption of beneficial relationships created by lack of continuing contact may be traumatic for the child” (pg 120).

According to Theodore Stein, grandparent visitation rights fall under the law of domestic relations and is governed by state law, which means legislation has no authority over the area; although, they can influence the states to enact legislation in support of grandparent visitation rights (2007, 232).  In the subject of grandparent visitation rights, the best interest of the child and parental autonomy are what is most focused on in research.  However, there have many twists and turns in grandparents’ visitation rights throughout the decades that have probably left the older, more experienced grandparents with whiplash. Three of the articles used in this research explain the evolution of grandparent visitation rights mostly because it had risen in the nineties and swiftly declined in 2000 following the Troxel Vs Granville case.  According to W.B Hartfield, during the nineties, in response to social phenomena (including political activism from older citizens and high divorce rates) state legislators acknowledged the importance of grandparent’s values and morals towards grandchildren that lead to the expansions of enactments in grandparent visitation rights in every state in the U.S. (1996).  Although there are still enactments for grandparents’ visitations, all of the states have narrowed and limited variations in most cases.  After the “years of the grandparent” as Hartfield would call it, a case in 2000 revolutionized most of the previously enacted rights for grandparents, Troxel Vs Granville.  In general, the case went from court to court granting visitation to the grandparents against the parents’ wishes; in conclusion, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts visitation order and dismissed the Troxel’s petition for visitation (Tara Nielson and Robin Bucaria, 2009, pg 527).  The reason why the higher court reversed the previous granted visitation is because it is unconstitutional for the government involvement in the private realm of the family, and also because there is a presumption that fit parents are able to act in the child’s best interest in the way they raise them (Tara Nielson and Robin Bucaria, 2009, pg 527).

Discussion of the Academic Research

All of the previous information leads to one of the focuses that are used to determine the visitation rights of grandparents, which is, parental autonomy. Why does it help determine visitation rights?  Nielson and Bucaria’s (2009) reason says, the presumption of parental autonomy rearing a child and in the presumption in favor that a parent is fit to make the best decision for their child, makes it harder for grandparents to obtain visitation rights when it is contrary to the wishes of the biological parent (pg 522). Michelle Ognibene also relates parental autonomy to the custody of children, that it is established parents have the rights to exclusive control over the decisions made pertaining their children because the courts regard these rights as “far more precious” than other rights (2005).

The second focus that courts use to determine visitation rights for grandparents are “the best interests theory”, as Patricia Fernandez calls it.  Every person has his or her own views and opinions on a child’s best interest, and I found that Patricia Fernandez has the most interesting views on it.  She first initiates that legislations had failed to define grandparent visitation rights adequately by its practice of the right (1988).  Shen then boldly states “Legislative pronouncements on a child’s best interests usually provides no guidance to what those interests are” (1988, 122).  This was the last research article I read, as I realized that there was not much guidance in what exactly is  in the child’s best interests, I assume that every state has their own limitations and requirements, but, there is not one exact definition of what a child’s best interest is.  On what grounds do the states base their “child’s best interest” on? According to Tara Nielson and Robin Bucaria, the standard of a child’s best interest was “the totality of the circumstance” which was stated earlier in the paper, is some ways that courts might look upon when approaching certain cases.  According to Stein, each courts standards on a child’s best interest is narrow and limited.  Some states clearly compel the grandparents to prove that visitation is in the best interest to the child (Stein, 2007, pg 233).  Arkansas defers the decision to the fit parent (Stein, 2007, pg 233).  California grandparents must show that visits are in the child’s best interest; and in Massachusetts, petitioning grandparents must show that the objecting parents are putting a burden and substantial risk to emotional welfare of the child (Stein, 2007, pg 233).  Consequently, the standards for grandparent visitation rights all vary from state to state law.

Throughout the sources, I found some interesting and important suggestions that can help the policies and rights that have interfered with past and current cases.  Theodore Stein (2007) suggests that the courts make more equitable co parents for children in custody. For instance, this suggests that the state offers any relative that has co parented the child in custody the right to be an equitable parent, since, grandparents are not the only relatives that a child can form deep attachments too.  Patricia Fernandez (1988) recognizes that times are changing and there are more people having children at a young age and out of wedlock; she believes that parenting is a learned skill (pg 113).  She suggests educating young abusive and neglectful parents on better skills on parenting and providing” watch dog” supervision to for troubled families (1988, pg 113).  This is a unique suggestion that I think will serve better over the methods of permanently throwing the children straight into foster homes Michelle Ognibene (2005) suggests that the grandparents be included in Due Process, so that they will be able to be notified of custody proceedings and most significantly be preferentially considered in custody cases (pg 1496).  Lastly, Nielson and Bucaria (2009) suggest a non-litigation centered approach that can help increase the likelihood that the outcome of visitation related litigation is in the best interest of the child, and also a process by which the outcome can be obtained (pg 530).  All of the academic readings that I have read and along with their suggestions have ultimately helped me evaluate the current visitation rights for grandparents in certain areas and lack of custody rights that are seen throughout the readings.  The entire research articles had example cases and the evolutions of the custody and visitation rights that aided me in realizing how the modern family has changed to and the problems that millions of families are going through.

The importance of a grandchild-grandparent relationship is known and acknowledged throughout the research of grandparents’ rights on visitation and policy.  However, it is but parental autonomy that has the foremost determination on visitation and custody rights with grandparents. Parental autonomy has been seen as one of the most precious rights, that cannot be broken because it is stated in the fourteenth amendment that parents have the fundamental right in the control, care, and custody of their children.  It has also been seen as unconstitutional for courts to force visitation with grandparents when a fit parent has objected to it.  A child’s best interest is another important factor in determining the visitation and custody and there are variations, limitations, and challenges that differ from state to state.  Moreover, as I see it, in the “child’s best interest” is not even fully defined or used properly in granting custody to anyone. Furthermore, it was constantly repeated that grandparents are not included in common law, nor due process, so they basically have no legal rights of custody or visitation, just ‘moral rights’.

Policy Implications

After being educated on grandparent’s rights, I would definitely make some changes in the current policies and rights for grandparents. I suggest that states should change their current policy of Due Process by including grandparents so they be notified when their grandchildren have been in custody of the courts and might be put in foster care, so the grandparents may be able to petition for custody (Ognibene, 2005). Along with that, the states should prefer grandparents during custody proceedings as well. By preferring grandparents in custody proceedings, it would cost less by having states cut down costs on paid custodial parenting. In addition to cutting down costs, by preferring grandparents over foster parents in custody proceedings can avert many conflicts between grandparents and foster care parents that can disrupt the child’s life, so, it would be in the child’s best interest to prefer custody to the grandparents so they child lives a valuable life (Ognibene, 2005). Throughout this research I have found these few suggestions most vital when thinking of new policy implications for grandparent rights. Granted, I believe that the inclusion of grandparents in a child’s life is important in the child’s upbringing.

Fernandez, P. S. (1988). Grandparent Access: A Model Statute. Yale Law & Policy Review, 6(1), 109-136.

Hartfield, B. W. (1996). Legal Recognition Of The Value Of Intergenerational Nurturance: Grandparent Visitation Statutes In The Nineties. Generations, 20(1), 53.

Nielson, T., & Bucaria, R. (2009). Grandparent Custody Disputes And Visitation Rights: Balancing The Interests Of The Child, The Parents, And The Grandparents. Journal of Law and Family Studies, 11, 521-530.

Ognibene, M. (2005). A Constitutional Analysis of Grandparents’ Custody Rights. The University of Chicago Law Review, 72(4), 1473-1499.

Quadagno, J. (2011). Family Relationships and Social Support Systems. In Aging and The Life course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology . (5th ed.). (p. 512). Boston, Massachusetts: Macgraw-Gill Higher Education.

Stein, T. J. (2007). Court-Ordered Grandparent Visitation: Welcome Event or Unwarranted Intrusion into Family Life?. The University of Chicago Press, 81(2), 229-243.



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Huaraz, Peru

que bonito es…

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Effect of Religiosity on Sexual Behaviors; Latino’s background example and a proposed study method

Sculptured Kama Sutra

The Effects of Religiosity on Sexual Behaviors

Religion plays a massive role in everyday life whether an individual is Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, even Atheist because although Atheists do not associate themselves with a particular religion they still have their own set of beliefs which is the belief to simply not believe in a God. Religion has been broadly defined as a set of institutionalized beliefs in a higher power and includes statutes or regulations for how to guide one’s life (Holder et al., 2000). According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs Pyramid (Berger 2005), religiosity falls under the Self-fulfillment needs portion of the pyramid which includes Self-actualization (achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities).

Sex (sexual intercourse) also plays an immense function in the lives of not only human individuals but every living organism on the planet. Every animal is biologically constructed to reproduce.  According to Freeman (2005), reproduction is the unconscious goal of virtually everything that an animal does. This statement refers back to the theory of evolution by natural selection which explains why animals reproduce. Consequently, sex should fall under the Physiological Needs portion of Maslow’s Pyramid which includes the most basic needs.

What is the result then, of these two elements combining? Religiosity and sex, a combination of a basic human need and a self-fulfilling need, does one overpower the other or can they both impact an individual equally? Hunt & Jung (2009), argue that religion (including its secular equivalent, i.e., global capitalism) remains a powerfully influential cultural force that shapes people’s lives, in general, and sanctifies their beliefs, in particular, about what makes for good sex. Religions have traditionally been guardians of sexual norms and practices. Religious beliefs and practices vary widely, but they form an important resource when reflecting on human sexuality.  This indicates then, that religiosity can actually control individual’s sex lives by how powerful someone’s belief system and faith seem to be. A devout religious person would then be controlled more by their sacred values opposed to their biological human needs. According to the results of Barkan (2006) who focused solely on premarital sex by never-married adults it was found that religiosity has a consistent, fairly strong, and statistically significant deterrent effects on the number of sexual partners. Barkan was able to demonstrate that the more religiosity someone possesses, the smaller the number of sexual partners they tend to have opposed to a person who is not very religious.

Religious practice and participation such as attending Sunday mass, baptisms and burials among people has also undoubtedly declined in the past few decades. In fact, according to Orathinkal and Vansteenwegen (2007) the Sunday Mass attendance in Belgium (one of the most predominantly catholic countries in Europe), dropped from 94% in 1967 to 71% in 1995. When taking only church attendance into consideration, after reviewing this data an exchange in a person’s way of thinking could possibly take place in which religiosity would take a backseat when it comes to sexual decisions and actions. If then, there is a correlation between mass attendance and how religious a person seems to be, human biological impulses due to sex would more than likely overpower the beliefs of celibacy until marriage that most religions do acknowledge as the “precise” thing to do. When merely considering church attendance however, a few psychological questions concerning attitudes over behavior need to be analyzed more carefully.

For instance, in an article by Bradshaw and Cowden (2007) it is stated that early on, religiosity was generally operationalized as church attendance, which is potentially problematic because this measures behavior rather than attitudes, and behavior is influenced by non-attitudinal forces, such as social and familial pressures. This fact will be measured carefully and taken into massive consideration when collecting data to ensure the validity of the study (religiosity will be measured by what the individual indicates opposed to taking into consideration how many times that person attends religious services).

Example of a specific ethnic background study that could take place among the Latinos:

There is no doubt that a variety of different results could be the outcome of this study which is why ethnic background and culture as well as a general demographic location are also being taken into consideration. Latinos all hold an ethnic similarity and therefore certain cultural similarities as well. The decision to focus on one ethnic group assists the research on its clarity of reliability through the population while still having variability among the participants through random sampling. The decision to collect data in one demographic location increases the cultural similarities among the participants.

Latino culture then must be taken into consideration. Often in the Latino culture, males and females take on different gender roles which then contribute to the sexual activities that take place.  Latino males tend to be more sexually active than Latino females and this is probably due to machismo and marianismo. Machismo is a concept that describes the male role as dominant, independent, and protective of the family, whereas marianismo refers to the female role as a caregiver, a virgin, and obedient to men (Gloria, Ruiz, & Castillo, 2004). Due to these exceedingly different gender roles, it is apparent that males are given more sexual liberty while females are expected to remain celibate. The influence of machismo and marianismo in the lives of Latino adolescents may depend on their level of acculturation; Acculturation has been defined as the process by which one is influenced by the host culture and one’s own culture of membership (Edwards et al., 2008; Berry, 2003). This straightforward culture value has a significant function when it comes to drawing conclusions about the data that will be collected about religiosity and sexual activity among Latino youth.

I hypothesize that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. Sexuality, being viewed as a socially disapproved behavior should be less prevalent in Latinos who are more religious.

Proposed Method

Participants: Due to the nature and context of this study, I propose to select 300 Latino university students at random. These students will have to be over 18 years of age but no older than 26 years of age. Of the research sample, 150 participants will be men and 150 will be women, in order to keep the ratio of the two sexes balanced. Therefore the proportion of males to females will be more generalized when calculating data between the two sexes. The participants are going to be selected from The University of Texas Pan American where there is a vast population of Latinos. The student participants are to be informed of the nature of the study as well.

Materials: The materials for this experiment include the Religion as Quest Scale, the I/E-R scale, and the ASC Scale. The I/E-R is a 14-item, 5-response Likert-type scale, which according to Bradshaw and Cowden (2007) has been extensively used. Questions include: “I try to live all my life according to my religious beliefs.” (I) and “I go to church because it helps me make friends.” (E). The Religion as Quest Scale is a 12-item, 9-response Likert-type scale. Questions include: “As I grow and change, I expect my religion to also grow and change.” The Attitudes Related to Sexual Concerns Scale is a 28-item, 5-response Likert-type scale that was developed to measure attitudes that have been identified as associated with a variety of sexual concerns. Demographic variables will also be examined such as age differences and gender differences. My data will fall under the assumption of nonparametric statistics using The Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. A scantron will also be used for easier statistical analysis to be sorted out and calculated towards the end of the study. The responses of the questionnaire will be placed in a software program called PASW (Predictive Analytics SoftWare; formerly SPSS).

Procedure: Before the actual questionnaires are distributed, an informed consent form would be explained and read thoroughly. Each participant would have to fully understand the purpose of the study and what it entails before signing the form. After the forms are signed, the participants would receive each survey separately. Note that there is no time limit to complete the questionnaires and inclusion in the study is strictly voluntary. A scantron which is to be used for all three surveys will be handed out at the beginning of the study before any questionnaires are passed out. The scantron would have three separate sections indicating where each survey is to be filled out. Each questionnaire will be administered separately. After one of the questionnaires is filled out completely, a participant would turn in the first survey and receive the next and so on until all surveys are completed. Participants would be surveyed in classroom settings throughout the university. When all of the surveys are completed they are to be separated by gender, this is for a later data comparison between the two genders. After separating the 300 surveys into two stacks of 150, calculating data may begin by imputing data into the PASW system.

Results: The data will fall under the assumption of nonparametric statistics using The Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. It was hypothesized that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. I anticipate that the future results will support this hypothesis.

Discussion: The present experiment examined the effects of religiosity on sexual behaviors in the young adult Latino population. It was hypothesized that the more religiosity a person possesses, the less likely they are to engage in sexual behavior such as masturbation, premarital intercourse, marital intercourse, and other intimate acts. I anticipate that the future results will support this hypothesis. Previous research has proven that religiosity does play a role in sexual behaviors. Barkan (2006) found that that religiosity has a consistent, fairly strong, and statistically significant deterrent effect on the number of sexual partners. He also found that the belief that premarital sex is wrong accounts for almost half of this effect. A limitation of this study would be that only one demographic location would be used as well as only one college Latino population opposed to various populations. This however, could be very simply solved by future research on this topic over a wide range of different Latino populations. A future study concerning different ethnic groups would be a great idea considering the fact that little research has been conducted on Latinos alone. Another limiting factor would be the proportion of heterosexual participants to homosexual participants. According to Bradshaw and Cowden, in most research, unless special recruitment methods are pursued, the non-heterosexual sample tends to be so small that statistical significance is hard to achieve. The generality of this study also needs to be taken into consideration because the sample population did come from a university setting. The results would yield greater generalizations if a larger sample was selected outside of the college atmosphere. Future data collected from UTPA students may represent systematically different information from young adult Latinos in general. In addition to these motives research has suggested that few studies have focused specifically on Latino/a youth especially examining the relationship between religiosity and sexual activity among Latinos, therefore more research is needed (Edwards, Fehring et al., 2008). Not only are more studies needed for Latinos but more studies need to be conducted concerning the subject matter of sexuality and religion itself. Perhaps future research examining homosexual religiosity or the effects of religiosity on sexually deviant behavior should be considered. Future research in this area however shouldn’t solely consist of Western cultures and religions. A wider Anthropological approach needs to be taken into consideration also. Studies from different cultures and other countries would be a valuable addition to this branch of psychological research.

Monique T. Cano (Undergraduate at the University of Texas Pan-American majoring in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology)


Barkan, S. E. (2006). Religiosity and premarital sex in adulthood. Journal for the Scientific Study                   of Religion. 45, 407–417.

Berger, K. S. (2005). The developing person through the lifespan (6th ed.). New York: Worth                   Publishers.

Berry, J. W. (2003). Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In K. M.Chun, P. B.Organista, &                   G.Marin (Eds.), Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research (pp. 17-38). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Bradshaw, S. D. & Cowden, C. R. (2007). Religiosity and sexual concerns. International Journal                   of Sexual Health. 19, 15-22.

Edwards, L., Fehring, R., Jarrett, K., & Haglund, K. (2008). The influence of religiosity, gender,                   and language preference acculturation on sexual activity among Latino/a adolescents.                   Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 30, 447-462.

Freeman, S. (2005). Biological Science (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall

Gloria, A. M., Ruiz, E. L., & Castillo, E. M. (2004). Counseling and psychotherapy with Latino                   and Latina clients. In T. B.Smith (Ed.), Practicing multiculturalism: Affirming diversity                   in counseling and psychology (pp. 167-189). Boston: Pearson Education.

Holder, D. W., DuRant, R. H., Harris, T. L., Daniel, J. H., Obeidallah, D., & Goodman, E.                   (2000). The association between adolescent spirituality and voluntary sexual activity.                   Journal of Adolescent Health. 26, 295-302.

Hunt, M. E., Jung, P. B. (2009). “Good sex” and religion: a feminist overview. Journal of Sex                   Research. 46, 156–167.

Orathinkal, J. A. Vansteenwegan, A. (2007). Religiosity and forgiveness among first-married                   and remarried adults. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 10, 379–394.


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Book Review: Women in Ancient Egypt

Robins, Women in Ancient Egypt

Robins, Gay

1993 Women in Ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press, Cambridge Massachusetts.

Chapter one explains the importance of royal women in ancient Egypt and queen ship. However, the first topic viewed in this chapter is about kings and kingship.  At first, male gods were in charge of the lands but later on human kings started to govern Egypt and they acted as a ‘mediator’ between the divine worlds and earth so they were responsible for humans and the universe (Robins 1993: 21). The divinity of queenship section explains how royal women, since early times were defined from their relationship to the king through titles like: ‘kings wife/principal wife’, ‘kings mother’ or ‘king’s daughter’ (Robins 1993:23). This section then questions the divinity of being a queen, since being a king is known as divine since early ancient Egypt. One-way to approach this question Robins suggests; do queens in ancient Egypt wear the insignia? Robins (1993: 23) then refers to queens specifically by “king’s mother” or “king’s principal wife”, who wore vulture headdresses, which was originally worn by the vulture goddess, Nekhbet, known from the Old Kingdom. The items of queenly insignia that are mentioned in the book are all divinely originated, then transferred to royal context, which made the queens who wore them seem divine, just as their kings. The origins of kings’ wives of non-royal birth section show no evidence of how the king chose his non-royal wives; this may suggest that maybe the king did not have a sister to marry. By the New Kingdom, the kings’ were polygamous and this introduced the title ‘king’s principal wife’, which singles out one wife from a number of wives (Robins 1993:27). Along with brother-sister marriage, father-daughter marriage was also arranged within ancient Egypt.

Joining the kings’ marriage to Egyptian women, he also included diplomatic marriage to foreign princesses to make alliance with residing countries. There were two types of Egyptian diplomatic marriages, the one in which the father of the bride is of equal rank or when the father of the bride is a vassal to the king and addressing him as ‘lord’ (Robins 1993:30). Although, royal children were rarely mentioned or even documented in most of the dynasties’ texts, some of them were lucky enough to be included in rituals, but a majority of them were not mentioned.  Lastly, Chapter one explains the institution of the ‘harim’, which is an independent institution where the ‘king’s mother’, ‘king’s principal wife’ and sometimes maybe even the king would reside, this establishment is endowed with cattle and is administered by a whole level of male officials. Some kings even made ‘harims’ just for the ‘king’s principal wife’ to reside in and her entourage or even for extra wives with whom he had gotten bored , in which to live and produce textiles.

Chapter two is about, Queens, their power, and the assumption of kingship. The concept of queenship is complementary with kingship; one does not exist without the other. Royal women were important ritually, but most of the time Queens were not given much power, even of being ‘king’s principal wife’ or ‘king’s mother’. Even so, queens were given their own estates and male officials to be loyal to them.  An example of a queen who exercised real power was Ahhotep II; she might have been queen regent for the young King Ahmose when he conquered Nubia and drove the Hyksos out of Egypt. Hatshepsut gained her prominence after her husband, Thutmose II, died. As Thutmose III was a boy, Hatshepsut was acting as a regent and was controlling the affairs of the land (Robins 1993:42). Hatshepsut made many kingly prerogatives during her reign, like having a pair of obelisks quarried and set up for her at Karnak, or having herself depicted in ceremonial scenes on a building in Karnak (Robins 1993:46). However, as Thutmose III got older, Hatshepsut’s reign was starting to look vague, but luckily there was a system in Ancient Egypt that two kings may rule at the same time, and Hatshepsut kept her role as king. Moreover, Hatshepsut was the only female ruler who ruled during the middle of a flourishing dynasty, and ruled for more that seven years. Other female kings like Nefrusobk and Nitiqret were reigning at the end of their dynasties and when their family had used them as a last resort as they came to the end of their fortunes. Robins (1993:55) then concludes that women like Ahmose and Hatshepsut were strong-minded individuals and although the divine offices were not opened up to women, royal women were still important in Ancient Egypt because they brought potential heirs to the throne.

Chapter three focuses on defining marriage in Ancient Egypt. One important level of social organization in Ancient Egypt was the concept of family groups, of one man, his wife and his children (Robins 1993:56). There are a few unusual cases that occurred in ancient Egypt involving family group. One can be of adoption of a son for an heir, an economic arrangement marriage, and lastly when a father gives up his daughter to marry another man (Robins 1993:59). There are also evidences of marriage contracts since the seventh century BC all the way to the Late and Ptolemaic Periods. These marriage contracts are basically made so that if the woman gets divorced she will not be left with nothing, or if the man wants to leave the woman she receives money or land in return, unless the woman has been unfaithful. Divorce was not uncommon in ancient Egypt; there could have been many reasons for a couple to get divorced. But two main reasons that Robins (1993:62) suggests are if the woman is in infertile or infidelity. From about 500 BC there are accounted evidence that women were about to initiate divorces from their husbands; this suggests that men were becoming unfaithful as well. Most likely male infertility was not known or explained in Ancient Egypt, so in most cases women may have been blamed for being infertile when in reality it may have been the man. There was no proscription about being polygamous in Ancient Egypt, even though men were usually monogamous. So if one was basically able to afford more than one wife, then one can have them. Most of the women were already able to work and make enough money with textile or cloth work to reimburse themselves in their marriages; so multiple marriages were not hard to keep (Robins 1993:64). It is unfortunate to discuss how men were able to have sexual affairs outside of their marriage and it was not allowed for women to commit adultery. With this is mind, the men knew that married women were off limits. There were various Ancient Egyptian texts that explain if ‘a man has a sexual relationship with another man’s women ‘ then he will be killed (Robins 1993: 70). Robins (1993:74) then explains that being married was a natural state for people in ancient Egyptian times, but there is nothing to show how they chose their partners, except that close kin marriages were to keep property and land in the family.

The main purpose of marriage for Ancient Egyptians (in chapter four) is to produce children and sustain a family; this made fertility of the biggest importance to families in Ancient Egypt. Thus infertility is a main explanation for many divorces during this time. At sites such as Dier El Medina there are to have been domestic shrines of fertility gods like: Taweret, Hathor and Bes. These are only a few of the many fertility and childbirth deities and figurines that occupied ancient Egyptian homes (Robins 1993:75). An answer to childlessness was adoption; many couples who were not able to have children bought them off of slaves or owned slaves. Like modern times, when a woman did not get her ‘purification period, there was a sign of conception (Robins 1993:78). They then did a series of random tests that could show is she really was pregnant, like the color of her skin and the size of her breasts and even through her urine samples (Robins 1993:79). In childbirth, women were usually squatting on two large bricks, with one person behind her and one person in front of her. Since childbirth mortality was high, Ancient Egyptians did a series of different seals and spells to protect the baby and mother during childbirth. Children usually suckled on their mother for no longer than three years; some elite peoples were able to provide wet nurses for their baby. Usually Royal families were the ones who hired wet nurses for their infants, but soon elite peoples started doing this to show their high statuses.

Chapter five shows how the family and the household of elite and the middle class families lived during Ancient Egypt. The plans for both the elite and the middle class households were similar, except the elite houses were larger. They each had central areas (reception) and surrounding rooms that could have been the kitchens and storage rooms, as well as another central section with surrounding rooms for the bedrooms. The housing provided by the state were very close to each other and were provided with a slave. They were rectangular with two main sections and two sections within the main sections. These workplace homes were owned by the state and housed only for state workers (Robins 1993:94,95). It was ideal for a man to bear many children with his wife in Ancient Egyptian times. So the typical household could conclude: the husband, his wife, his children and maybe the females mother and sisters, considering if the females father had died (Robins 1993:99). The ‘mistress of the house’ makes sure that all of the duties (mainly food production) are being done and in some cases she does most duties herself. Some household duties could be childbearing, food supply of wheat and barley, baking, weaving, brewing of beer (male servants), or business transactions (Robins 1993: 101, 102). The business transactions are when the women are producing foods or textiles or even clothing in their home and exchange it in their markets for other products of servants (Robins 1993:103,104). The lower class had the small illiterate professions, which made up a majority of the population. This class was unable to leave written records, because they were not able to write; they were not able to get an education. Robins and other authors had to rely on how the elite saw the non-elites. The lower class men worked in the fields (fisherman etc.) and most of the lower class women worked in the fields as well or did weaving and childbearing. They bore a lot of children so that they had free agriculture labor and so that some would be alive (high infant mortality rate) to take care of them when they are old (Robins 1993:110).

Chapter six deals with what women do outside of the home. Since women were responsible for controlling the household, then they were allowed to leave the home. Though, women were not allowed in the bureaucratic structure, they were not sent to school and left with no chance of literacy, unless the mother was literate and taught her female children. Thus in elite families, since women had no hope for bureaucratic positions, at least they were able to write letters to each other or read and copy literacy books (Robins 1993:113). The work that women did in ancient Egypt surprisingly did not depend on the status of her husband. During the Old Kingdom women actually were able to hold administrative positions, like in private homes, but this soon disappeared during the Middle and New Kingdoms; all levels of society eventually became male dominant. But of course women were still called upon to do state labor with the men; there are also various evidences that there was a division of labor based on gender in Ancient Egypt.

Chapter seven deals with the economic and legal position of women. Robins explains how women along with men can own land, dispose of it, exchange it and sell it (1993:136). Not only could women do their own economic transactions, but they could initiate lawsuits and even own their own slave’s; they were treated equal to men with punishment and seen as equal in the court system (Robins 1993: 129-137). Another way that a woman can gain property was to inherit it from her father, unless it was in a state property. For example: if the father worked at Dier El Medina and left the house to his daughter, then her husband would be in charge/own the house; but any other storage room or extra rooms made by her father by his own hand would be labeled hers by law (Robins 1993:134). Fathers usually made extra rooms of storage or huts so in this case if the husband leaves the daughter, then she has someplace to live and not become homeless. The most common type of lawsuit was usually for debt collecting, of financial equals or poorer. There were never any lawsuits of poor people suing elite people.

Chapter eight is about women in temple ritual.  There is evidence that in the Old Kingdom, women had potential and important roles in temple rituals and that a large number of high-class women were priestesses of Hathor (Robins 1993:142). But there was still a male dominancy in ritual and the high administration in the Hathor cult. Outside of the Hathor cult, the amount of women actually in position in other rituals drops to a handful, nor did we ever find women lector priests, the ones that read the ritual from a papyrus roll; this may have been from the women’s lack of being able to read (Robins 1993:144). By the Eighteenth Dynasty women held no positions at all in cults or rituals and the closest that they could get to working in a temple would to be as a musician. Female musicians carry a loop sistrum frequently and hold the sistrum by the loop and shake it; this sistrum is a rattle sacred to Hathor, used to pacify deities and goddesses when shaken (Robins 1993:145). Robins also explains that musicians also carried a beaded necklace called a menit, that was also sacred to Hathor, this was used In temple rituals as well (1993: 146). From the Old Kingdom you can find troupes of women called ‘musical troupes’, they are attached to religious and secular institutions and are made up of two rows, which have five female dancers and three women clapping (Robins 1993:148). Parts of the function of ‘god’s wife’ was to play her sistrum before her god to pacify him and avert his anger elsewhere so and also use ‘god’s hand’ to keep fertility from flagging in the universe (Robins 1993:156).

Chapter nine is the chapter on personal religion and death. Robins says that temple cult is the state religion the people of Ancient Egypt were not forced to go to these temples or become part of a state cult, although they did go and leave offerings to deities at these temples often (1993:157-160). Since the Middle Kingdom any person could set up votive stelaes and statutes in temple precincts in order to establish a connecting between the deity/temple and the individuals (Robins 1993:157). Women and men could both erect votive stelaes, as long as they could afford it, since mostly men are the ones bringing in high incomes, the male votive stelaes outnumbered the women. Thus, the votive stelae and figurines found could be told who made them by the dominance of sex that the piece has, sometimes one find’s stelae’s called ‘mistress of the house’ or ‘musician’ (Robins 1993:159). Though when women do have their own stelae, their husbands mostly accompany them. This is due to the two basic rules of decorum. The first rule is that the owner of the monument must be occupy the primary place, and second, women with only a few exceptions can take a subordinate position in relation to their husbands (Robins 1993:159). Moreover, if the owner of the monument is a woman then the primary place is hers, her husband cannot be shown because he would be forced to appear in the secondary position (Robins 1993:159). It is known that women are not barred from dedicating votives to male deities, but they frequently prefer female deities like: Hathor, Isis, Mut, the snake goddess Meresger and Renenutet; there is always a tendency of gender distinction especially in honoring deities (Robins 1993:160). Burial for women is the same for men (for scribal classes), they share the same after life for men, but men get a tomb chapel and women cannot (Robins 1993:164). Once the burial was done, there was a funerary cult for the deceased one made in front of the temple tomb or false doors, false doors are where the living and the dead could meet (Robins 1993:169). Since women and men were somewhat equalized in funerary actions, then by no means does the female not get the same after-life as the male.

Chapter ten is on the images of women in literature and art. Since scribal men in all of the surviving texts wrote more scripts, this is the only viewpoint we have of women. Therefore, at least we can see how men perceived women and women’s place in society through the male scribal class. Literary texts that perceive images of women are known as the ‘wisdom texts’, ‘Instructions of Any’ and the ‘Instructions of Ptahhotep’. The ‘wisdom texts’ gives advice to young scribes on how to treat their mothers, sisters and wives, and also how to comport themselves in society, the ‘Instructions of Any’ texts reveals that women are in charge of the household and the “Instructions of Ptahhotep’ cautions the reader against approaching women from other households (Robins 1993:176, 177). All of this literary evidence suggests that men had a dual perception of women, one of honoring them and the other of being cautious of the ones who want to approach them.

The representation of female and male figurines in Ancient Egyptian art was basically idealistic. The ideal form for women was characterized by a slim and slender figure with youthful beauty; they did not show how pregnancy or the spreading waistline of childbearing could change a figure as part of an image (Robins 1993:180). Although men were also shown with a slim and youthful figure, they did add rolls of fat and big muscular breasts to the elite and official ideals. The women did not get this because they could not work for the government. Also other distinctions between male and female figures was the body proportions (Robins 1993:180, 181). From the Old Kingdom women wore tight sheath dresses that are lower than their breasts and showed their figures, but later was changed to loose rectangle clothing along with the men’s costumes in the Middle Kingdom (Robins 1993:181-183). The motif of the naked adolescent girl was a female image ( in tomb temples) that was shown to represent dancers, musicians and servant girls; it also decorated ritual spoons (Robins 1993: 185). Moreover, chapter ten explains the differences on how women were perceived in literary texts and within arts during Ancient Egyptian times, and how men were given difference in looks even for figurines, when women where not.

I really enjoyed this book. There was many disappointing information to read on how little women were given authorities to many different things, with a few exceptions, but in all it was a good read. The author presented the information well; he was able to link many examples into his presentations and images that he used. This book did not have any argument to any other information because it was just a lot of information on how women were perceived and what they were able to do during the Ancient Egyptian times. But for soundness in explaining both the views of women and men, and even though there was a lack of lower class information due to their illiteracy, Robins was sound in his arguments. It explains a lot about the customs of Ancient Egypt and really gave me a good insight on what our next topics may be in class, for women. The general readability was fine, it was not a boring read, and will not make you fall asleep. Therefore, I would recommend this book for anyone to do their own book review on it, if interested in women specifically.

Monica Rios (Undergraduate at the University of Texas-Pan American)

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