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Is Traditional Gender Ideology Associated with Sex-Typed Mate Preferences? A Test in Nine Nations

Abstract

Social role theory (Eagly, Wood, & Diekman, 2000) predicts that traditional gender ideology is associated with preferences for qualities in a mate that reflect a conventional homemaker-provider division of labor. This study assessed traditional gender ideology using Glick and Fiske's (1996, 1999) indexes of ambivalent attitudes toward women and men and related these attitudes to the sex-typed mate preferences of men for younger mates with homemaker skills and of women for older mates with breadwinning potential. Results from a nine-nation sample revealed that, to the extent that participants had a traditional gender ideology, they exhibited greater sex-typing of mate preferences. These relations were generally stable across the nine nations.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    In this article, the term the sexes denotes the grouping of people into female and male categories. The terms sex differences and similarities are applied to describe the results of comparing these two groups. The term gender refers to the meanings that societies and individuals ascribe to female and male categories. We do not intend to use these terms to give priority to any class of causes that may underlie sex and gender effects.

  2. 2.

    Although most of the Hill (1945) mate preferences were also positively associated with traditional gender ideology in the present study, they did not (nor were they predicted to) show a differential association by sex. Only the items good financial prospects and good cook and housekeeper yielded clear predictions from the social role logic.

  3. 3.

    The cross-cultural mate preference data were collected in 2001. The GDI and GEM numbers were from the 2001 version of the UN report with two exceptions: Syria's and Taiwan's (i.e., China's) GEM scores, which were unavailable in the 2001 report, came from the 1999 report.

  4. 4.

    We examined whether gender ideology mediated the associations between the national indicators of gender equality (GEM and GDI) and preferred age difference in a mate (Baron & Kenny, 1986). For men, benevolence toward men yielded significant mediation; for women, hostile sexism, benevolent sexism, and hostility toward men yielded significant mediation, and benevolence toward men marginal mediation. Although for women the correlations between the national indicators and preferred age difference were not significant, this relation has been established elsewhere with a larger sample of nations (Eagly & Wood, 1999).

  5. 5.

    This analysis could potentially have been conducted using multi-level modeling procedures that treated participant variables as Level 1 variables nested within nation, a Level 2 variable. However, with only a convenience sample of nine nations, we cannot claim that our sample is representative of all nations; this limitation makes multi-level modeling procedures inappropriate in this context.

  6. 6.

    The effect-coded nation variables were not allowed to interact with each other. It would be meaningless, for instance, to allow the effect-coded variable for Spain to interact with the effect-coded variable for Turkey. Also, the number of nation effect-coded variables included in each of the regressions differed slightly by analysis because participants in Singapore did not report their age preferences and participants in Spain and the United States did not complete the AMI. The maximum number of effect-coded nation variables is only eight because one nation (Syria) served as the reference category (see Darlington, 1990).

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Acknowledgement

The research was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to Paul Eastwick

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Correspondence to Paul W. Eastwick.

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Eastwick, P.W., Eagly, A.H., Glick, P. et al. Is Traditional Gender Ideology Associated with Sex-Typed Mate Preferences? A Test in Nine Nations. Sex Roles 54, 603–614 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9027-x

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Keywords

  • Mate preferences
  • Ambivalent sexism
  • Cross-cultural
  • Mate selection
  • Gender