, Volume 36, Issue 3-4, pp 207-220

Gendered norms for family size, employment, and occupation: Are there personal costs for violating them?

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Abstract

The present study investigated gendered stereotypes involving women’s family size, employment, and occupation. Eleven ratings of targets’ social and personality characteristics were ascribed by 400 undergraduates to a hypothetical married woman described as voluntarily childfree or the mother of one, two, or eight children, and as nonemployed or employed either part or full time in either a gender-appropriate or gender-inappropriate occupation. Women employed in gender-atypical occupations were considered less expressive and were socially distanced, but this factor did not interact with family size. Two-children mothers were regarded favorably as was employment. Prior findings denigrating single-child mothers and glorifying eight-children mothers were not replicated—both groups were rated similar to normative, two-children mothers. Consistent with prior research, childfree women were evaluated least favorably. Findings suggest that norms regarding both family size (two children) and employment exist among contemporary college students.

The authors thank Pauline Beres for her help with data collection and entry. This paper was presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association in New York in 1995.