Sex Roles

, Volume 74, Issue 11–12, pp 527–542 | Cite as

Parents’ Gender Ideology and Gendered Behavior as Predictors of Children’s Gender-Role Attitudes: A Longitudinal Exploration

  • Hillary Paul HalpernEmail author
  • Maureen Perry-Jenkins
Original Article


The current study utilized longitudinal, self-report data from a sample of 109 dual-earner, working-class couples and their 6-year-old children living in the northeastern United States. Research questions addressed the roles of parents’ gender ideology and gendered behaviors in predicting children’s development of gender-role attitudes. It was hypothesized that parents’ behavior would be more influential than their ideology in the development of their children’s attitudes about gender roles. Parents responded to questionnaires assessing their global beliefs about women’s and men’s “rightful” roles in society, work preferences for mothers, division of household and childcare tasks, division of paid work hours, and job traditionality. These data were collected at multiple time points across the first year of parenthood, and during a 6-year follow-up. At the final time point, children completed the Sex Roles Learning Inventory (SERLI), an interactive measure that assesses gender-role attitudes. Overall, mothers’ and fathers’ behaviors were better predictors of children’s gender-role attitudes than parents’ ideology. In addition, mothers and fathers played unique roles in their sons’ and daughters’ acquisition of knowledge about gender stereotypes. Findings from the current study fill gaps in the literature on children’s gender development in the family context—particularly by examining the understudied role of fathers in children’s acquisition of knowledge regarding gender stereotypes and through its longitudinal exploration of the relationship between parents’ gender ideologies, parents’ gendered behaviors, and children’s gender-role attitudes.


Child development Division of labor Feminism Family socialization Gender Parent-child relations Working class 



This research is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to Maureen Perry-Jenkins (R01-MH56777). We gratefully acknowledge Aya Ghunney, Elizabeth Harvey, Rachel Herman, Katie Newkirk, Jennifer McDermott, and Aline Sayer for their assistance on this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The present study utilizes data from a larger study, which was approved by the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Institutional Review Board. In accordance with guidelines for this approval, the ethical protocol for work with human subjects has been met, including informed consent.

This research is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health awarded to the Principal Investigator, Dr. Maureen Perry-Jenkins (R01-MH56777). We are confident that the integrity of our research was not compromised by any conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Center for Research on FamiliesUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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