Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Ann Lamanna

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark Rousseau

Third Advisor

Dr. Deborah Smith Howell


In an effort to determine how judges define "motherhood" a cluster criticism analysis was employed on twenty seven court opinions. These court opinions stemmed from custody cases between biological fathers and third parties. Results indicated three major themes emerging from the discourse. The themes labeled Lie/Deception and Rejected/Thwarted indicated that mothers are held accountable when they do not live up to the dominant cultural ideology of motherhood. The theme labeled Mother's Legal Status refers to the debate within law over the equality of men and women in the case of pregnancy.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Mary A. Burbach July, 1997