, Volume 55, Issue 7-8, pp 523-533
Date: 28 Nov 2006

Biological Essentialism, Gender Ideologies, and Role Attitudes: What Determines Parents’ Involvement in Child Care

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Abstract

This study draws on Bem’s conceptualization (The lenses of gender: Transforming the debate on sexual inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993) of biological essentialism to explore fathers’ and mothers’ involvement in child care. The relationships between parental essentialist perceptions, gender ideology, fathers’ role attitudes, and various forms of involvement in child care were examined. Two hundred and nine couples with 6–36-month-old children completed extensive questionnaires. Analyses revealed that fathers’ essentialist perceptions predicted involvement in child care tasks and hours of care by the mother, whereas mothers’ essentialist perceptions predicted hours of care by the father. Parents’ attitudes toward the father’s role predicted involvement in child care tasks. Parents’ attitudes and perceptions contributed to involvement in child care even after the effects of the parents’ employment were controlled. The importance of examining various aspects of parents’ views, and distinguishing different forms of involvement in child care is discussed.