On the cusp of a movement: Identity work and social movement identification processes within fathers’ rights groups

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Individuals who belong to social movement organizations (SMOs) do not necessarily identify themselves with the larger social movement overall. This sharp disconnect presents challenges to highly motivated activists, who rely on widespread movement identification to achieve their most valued goals in the political arena. This study aims to map out the conditions under which the movement identification process takes place. A mixed methods approach employs both content analysis and logit modeling techniques on original data collected from 149 members of fathers’ rights groups located across the United States in 2003. In terms of results, first, the content analysis methods that are used on the interview data illustrate that SMO participants most commonly cite the social movement’s formulation of a strong, social change goal when they consider the movement identification decision. Second, the logit models which are employed on the quantitative data show that engagement in externally-oriented identity work activities—or those activities that require members to interact with nonmembers of their immediate group in building their collective identity—as well as personal strain and notions of political efficacy are the most significant predictors of individual-level social movement identification. These results highlight the social movement features that are most significant to both movement identifiers and nonidentifiers, and demonstrate the importance of externally-oriented identity work on the conversion of simple SMO participation to social movement identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-724
Number of pages20
JournalSociological Spectrum
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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