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Constructing a Feminist Reorganization of the Heterosexual Breadwinner/Caregiver Family Model: College Students’ Plans for their Own Future Families

Abstract

Although feminist scholars have been criticizing the breadwinner-caregiver model of family division of labor for decades (Ferree 1990, 2010; Friedan 1963) and women are earning a substantial portion of families’ income (Wang et al. 2013) change in family care has been slow. Families are a cultural system that may serve to constrain parents’ behaviors by gender. Although most women are employed, they are also responsible for a bulk of the housework, an examination of men’s behavior can reveal how changes can occur in the breadwinner-caregiver model. Drawing on the social-cognitive theory (Bussey and Bandura 1999), it was hypothesized that when men and women in emerging adulthood remember their parents sharing childcare and paid labor more equitably, they would also be planning for a future where men were involved in childcare. Participants were 586 college students from Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern regions of the United States. They responded to surveys measuring parental division of labor during childhood, along with their own plans for their future families, and feelings of competence for such tasks. Interestingly, men who remembered their fathers caring for them reported feeling more competence in childcare tasks themselves. Results indicated that college men and women are able to construct family roles that do not adhere to the breadwinner-caregiver model when their parents modeled a less traditional division of labor in their childhoods.

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Compliance with Ethical Standards

The research reported on in the manuscript, “Constructing a Feminist Reorganization of the Heterosexual Breadwinner/Caregiver Family Model: College Students’ Plans for their Own Future Families” complies with ethical standards for research as directed by the American Psychological Association. The project was approved individually by the Institutional Review Boards of Washington and Lee University, Monmouth University, and the University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point. Participants gave informed consent before participating in data collection.

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Correspondence to Megan Fulcher.

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Fulcher, M., Dinella, L.M. & Weisgram, E.S. Constructing a Feminist Reorganization of the Heterosexual Breadwinner/Caregiver Family Model: College Students’ Plans for their Own Future Families. Sex Roles 73, 174–186 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0487-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0487-8

Keywords

  • Division of labor
  • Gender roles
  • Parents
  • Emerging adulthood