Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Christine E Rittenour

Committee Co-Chair

Megan R Dillow

Committee Member

Aaron Metzger

Committee Member

Scott A Myers

Committee Member

Keith Weber


Toward empirically validating motherhood as an intergroup context and uncovering communicative solutions to resolving the cultural "mommy wars," the goal of this dissertation was to test foundational intergroup communication theories with stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) and working mothers (WMs) across two independent experiments. In Study One, participant SAHMs and WMs (N = 529) reported on their outgroup attitudes, affective responses (i.e., contempt, admiration, envy, and pity), behavioral responses (i.e., active/passive facilitation, active/passive harm), intergroup anxiety, and willingness to communicate after viewing a description of a target SAHM or WM designed in accordance with the most prevalent stereotypes of SAHMs and WMs established by previous research. The results of Study One revealed the powerful---and primarily negative---effects of stereotypes on mothers' cognitive, affective, and behaviors responses to outgroup mothers. In Study Two, participant SAHMs and WMs (N = 154) reported on their stereotype reliance, outgroup attitudes, perceptions of outgroup typicality, provision of help, and willingness to communicate after viewing an introduction message from a target SAHM or WM designed in accordance with the four representational mediators in the common ingroup identity model (Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust, 1993; Gaertner, Rust, Dovidio, Bachman, & Anastasio, 1994). Given that CIIM tenets were not supported when applied to this novel experimental design, the results of Study Two demonstrate the complexities of communicating social categorization and present opportunities for future investigations of the CIIM. The discussion highlights the implications and contributions of these findings to intergroup communication theory and scholarship, mothers' interpersonal relationships, and women's group vitality. Recommendations for future investigations of mothers' intergroup conflict within media coverage of the cultural "mommy wars," across interactions in more developed mother-mother relationships, and via mothers' interactions in online channels are also discussed.