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Interviews Exploring Emerging Adults’ Everyday Life Gender Norm Experiences, Media Gender Norm Perceptions, and Future Gender Norm Expectations

Abstract

In a culture where media increasingly permeate everyday life experiences, this study explores where emerging adult interviewees acquire gender norm information and how this information is applied to future gender norm expectations. Qualitative research has considered emerging adults’ future life expectations; however, it has not concurrently explored everyday life gender norm experiences, media gender norm perceptions, and future gender norm expectations in family and career. This study’s 20 in-depth interviews (M age = 19.05 years) with male and female undergraduate students were analyzed using grounded theory method (GTM). Findings revealed interviewees used everyday life gender norm experiences to support or challenge media gender norm perceptions. The majority of interviewees also perceived media undergoing a “shift” to mirror everyday life gender norm experiences. Additionally, interviewees often discussed childhood everyday life experiences rather than media perceptions when articulating future gender norm expectations. However, while most female interviewees expected to manage future household, childcare, and career responsibilities, male interviewees expected a 50/50 split, to take part in less childcare, and expected future partners to work, contributing to household finances. The discussion considers the ways the interviewees integrated everyday life and media gender norms in conversation, how they may use these realms to shape future expectations, and the consequences that might arise if these expectations are not met.

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Funding

This study was funded by the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (Grant Number: N/A).

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Correspondence to Halie Wenhold.

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Appendix 1: Interview Schedule

Appendix 1: Interview Schedule

Introduction

During this interview, I want to hear your ideas about gender norms as portrayed in the media and as seen in your everyday life. By “gender norms” I mean the things men and women are expected to do in a culture. For example, in some cultures women are expected to be homemakers and men are expected to be career driven “breadwinners” for their families. Notably, gender is still presented as binary in the media. So, I want to see how the media’s gender norm stereotypes carry over to your own life. Finally, we will discuss your plans for the future and how you intend to realistically perform the tasks you expect to do as a woman or as a man in your household and career. I am particularly interested in the gender norms you expect to contribute as a woman or as a man in the household and career contexts of your life.

Questions About Media Gender Norm Perceptions

I am going to ask you about the media’s (i.e., TV, news media, movies, videogames, social networking, media personae, and other online activity) portrayal of gender norms.

  1. 1.

    What are your thoughts on the media’s gender norm portrayal of women/men in family life?

  2. 2.

    Think about the media’s gender norm portrayal of women/men working. What types of jobs do the media often show men and women working?

    • How do men and women interact with each other in the office?

    • Can you tell me your thoughts about the media’s portrayal of men and women working in careers (e.g., medicine/dentistry, computer science, travel, engineering, corporate setting, service industry)?

  3. 3.

    In what ways are the media’s portrayals of gender norms representative of the US?

Questions About Everyday Life Gender Norm Experiences

Now I am going to start asking you questions about your childhood and the gender norms you experienced growing up.

  1. 4.

    Let’s talk about your growing up experience at home: Did you have the standard “mom/dad” household or something else? Can you elaborate?

  2. 5.

    What jobs did your parents or caretaker have while you were growing up?

    • What were some of your mom’s household responsibilities when you were a child?

    • What about your dad’s household responsibilities?

    • How have things changed or remained the same since you were little?

    • Can you tell me about who was responsible for shopping for food/managing money/providing for the family/taking care of the children?

  3. 6.

    In what ways were your family gender norms similar to or different from what you think a typical family was like outside of where you lived?

Questions About Future Gender Norm Expectations (Family/Career)

Now I am going to ask you about gender norms and responsibility in your future family and career life. And by norms I mean things you are expected to do in the household and in the workplace.

  1. 7.

    In future years, imagine yourself with a domestic partner. Who is it?

  2. 8.

    Typically, there are two main components of a domestic partnership: the home and the career space/making money to maintain the home. How do you picture the two of you balancing your life obligations?

    • What types of household chores (e.g., laundry, dishes, lawn work, shop for food) would be expected of you? How would you expect to divide household chores between you and your partner?

    • How would you and your partner manage money? Make major decisions on spending?

    • How would you and your partner divide childcare responsibilities?

  3. 9.

    What do you think you and your domestic partner will need to do to balance all of these tasks? Do you think this division of labor is realistic?

  4. 10.

    How will you make this balance work? What do you expect the challenges to be? Do you expect any tensions?

  5. 11.

    How would you expect your domestic partner to support you?

  6. 12.

    Now I want you to imagine yourself in the workplace. What type of job would you expect to work?

    • What would be expected of you as a woman/man in this career?

    • How would you expect to be treated because of your gender?

    • What would you contribute as a woman/man to this career?

    • How do you foresee yourself interacting with female and male coworkers?

  7. 13.

    Anything else you would like to add or discuss?

  8. 14.

    What did you think of this interview experience?

Demographic/Final Questions

  • How old are you?

  • What is your current year in school?

  • What is your major/minor?

  • Do you identify as a feminist? If so, in what way? If not, can you explain why? If not, can you explain why?

  • Do you have any hobbies?

  • Where do you currently live/parents live?

  • Do you have any religious background/identify as religious?

  • Have you ever worked a part-time or full-time job?

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Wenhold, H., Harrison, K. Interviews Exploring Emerging Adults’ Everyday Life Gender Norm Experiences, Media Gender Norm Perceptions, and Future Gender Norm Expectations. J Adult Dev 28, 207–220 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-020-09364-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-020-09364-y

Keywords

  • Emerging adulthood
  • Everyday life
  • Gender norms
  • Life expectations
  • Media
  • Millennial