The Baby Blanket or the Briefcase: The Impact of Evangelical Gender Role Ideologies on Career and Mothering Aspirations of Female Evangelical College Students


This study examines the relationship between the Evangelical gender role ideologies termed Complementarianism and Egalitarianism and mothering and career aspirations among Evangelical female college students. We surveyed 134 women from two colleges in the United States, one in the Midwest and one in the South. Using a cross-sectional, self-report survey design, we examined the interaction between career aspirations and mothering aspirations as well as the impact of Evangelical gender role ideologies on both types of aspirations. Results indicated that career and home aspirations were negatively correlated. Mothering aspirations were shown to be significantly affected by conservative gender role ideology. These findings suggest that aspirations for one’s mothering role may be influenced by ideological positions.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Colleen Warner Colaner.

Additional information

The authors would like to thank the Irene Frieze and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful and helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript.


Appendix A

Survey questions used for the gender role ideology construct

  1. 1.

    Ultimate authority is not necessary because my husband and I will reach consensus on decisions.*

  2. 2.

    My marriage will be a relationship of leader (husband) and follower (wife).

  3. 3.

    I will be a “helper” to my husband by using my gifts and abilities.

  4. 4.

    My husband will have the final authority in our home.

  5. 5.

    Ultimate responsibility and therefore authority over our family will be jointly held by me and my spouse.*

  6. 6.

    When my spouse and I disagree, I will yield to his leadership.

  7. 7.

    I expect to defer my goals and interests to support to my husband’s pursuits.

  8. 8.

    My husband and I will be mutually submissive to one another with no hierarchical order.*

  9. 9.

    My husband and I will bear equal responsibilities in leading the family spiritually.*

  10. 10.

    My husband will be the head of our home.

  11. 11.

    I will be primarily responsible for the domestic chores of the house.

  12. 12.

    I will decide how my income will best suit the family’s needs.*

  13. 13.

    My husband will ultimately have authority over our home.

  14. 14.

    I will express my wishes on when to have children, but my husband will make the final decision.

  15. 15.

    I will give my opinion concerning money matters, but my husband will have authority over our finances.

*Denotes Egalitarian-oriented questions

Appendix B

Survey questions used for the home aspiration construct

  1. 1

    My ideal situation would be to stay at home with my children.

  2. 2

    The only reason that I currently/would work is to make money for my family.

  3. 3

    The greatest desire in my life is to be a mother.

  4. 4

    I resent the fact that I have to work.*

*Not included in data analysis

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Colaner, C.W., Giles, S.M. The Baby Blanket or the Briefcase: The Impact of Evangelical Gender Role Ideologies on Career and Mothering Aspirations of Female Evangelical College Students. Sex Roles 58, 526–534 (2008).

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  • Gender role ideologies
  • Evangelical women
  • Career aspirations
  • Mothering aspirations