Parents’ Gender Ideology and Gendered Behavior as Predictors of Children’s Gender-Role Attitudes: A Longitudinal Exploration
- 4.9k Downloads
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.
KeywordsChild 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.
- Afifi, A., Clark, V. A., & May, S. (2004). Computer-aided multivariate analysis (4th ed.). New York: Chapman & Hall/CRC.Google Scholar
- Bem, S. L. (1985). Androgyny and gender schema theory: A conceptual and empirical integration. In T. B. Sonderegger (Ed.), Psychology and gender: Nebraska symposium on motivation (Vol. 32, pp. 179–226). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
- Berk, L. E. (2009). Child development (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.Google Scholar
- Bouchard, G., & Lee, C. M. (2000). The marital context for father involvement with their preschool children: The role of partner support. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 20, 37–53. doi: 10.1300/J005v20n01_04.
- Brogan, D., & Kutner, N. G. (1976). Measuring sex-role orientation: A normative approach. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 38, 31–40. doi: 10.2307/350548.
- Bulanda, R. E. (2004). Paternal involvement with children: The influence of gender ideologies. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 40–45. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-2455.2004.00003.x.
- Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. A. (1987). Men’s involvement in parenthood: Identifying the antecedents and understanding the barriers. In P. W. Berman & F. A. Pedersen (Eds.), Men’s transitions to parenthood: Longitudinal studies of early family experience (pp. 145–174). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Cowan, C. P., & Cowan, P. (1999). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Epstein, M., & Ward, L. M. (2011). Exploring parent-adolescent communication about gender: Results from adolescent and emerging adult samples. Sex Roles, 65, 108–118. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9975-7.
- Fagot, B. I., & Hagan, R. (1991). Observations of parent reactions to sex-stereotyped behaviors: Age and sex effects. Child Development, 62, 617–628. doi: 10.2307/1131135.
- Fulcher, M., Sutfin, E., & Patterson, C. J. (2008). Individual differences in gender development: Associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes, and division of labor. Sex Roles, 58, 330–341. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9348-4.
- Gelman, S. A., Taylor, M. G., & Nguyen, S. P. (2004). Mother-child conversations about gender: Understanding the acquisition of essentialist beliefs: I. Introduction. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 69, 1–14. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5834.2004.06901002.x.
- Goldberg, A. E., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2007). The division of labor and perceptions of parental roles: Lesbian couples across the transition to parenthood. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 24, 297–318. doi: 10.1177/0265407507075415.
- Goldberg, A. E., Kashy, D. A., & Smith, J. Z. (2012). Gender-typed play behavior in early childhood: Adopted children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Sex Roles, 67, 503–515. doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0198-3.
- Kroska, A., & Elman, C. (2009). Change in attitudes about employed mothers: Exposure, interests, and gender ideology discrepancies. Social Science Research, 38, 366–382. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2008.12.004.
- Liben, L. S., Bigler, R. S., & Krogh, H. R. (2002). Language at work: Children’s gendered interpretations of occupational titles. Child Development, 73, 810–823. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.00440.
- Lindberg, S. M., Hyde, J., & Hirsch, L. M. (2008). Gender and mother-child interactions during mathematics homework: The importance of individual differences. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 54, 232–255. doi: 10.1353/mpq.2008.0017.
- Lobel, T. E., Gruber, R., Govrin, N., & Mashraki-Pedhatzur, S. (2001). Children’s gender-related inferences and judgments: A cross-cultural study. Developmental Psychology, 37, 839–846. doi: 10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.529.
- Moon, M., & Hoffman, C. D. (2008). Mothers’ and fathers’ differential expectancies and behaviors: Parent X child gender effects. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 164, 261–279. doi: 10.3200/GNTP.169.3.261-280.
- Perrone-McGovern, K. M., Wright, S. L., Howell, D. S., & Barnum, E. L. (2014). Contextual influences on work and family roles: Gender, culture, and socioeconomic factors. The Career Development Quarterly, 62, 21–28. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.2014.00067.x.
- Perry-Jenkins, M., & Crouter, A. C. (1990). Men’s provider-role attitudes: Implications for household work and marital satisfaction. Journal of Family Issues, 11, 136–156. doi: 10.1177/019251390011002002.
- Rainey, A. B., & Rust, J. O. (1999). Reducing gender stereotyping in kindergartners. Early Child Development and Care, 150, 33–42. doi: 10.1080/0300443991500103.
- Sayer, L. C. (2005). Gender, time and inequality: Trends in women’s and men’s paid work, unpaid work and free time. Social Forces, 84, 285–303. doi: 10.1353/sof.2005.0126.
- Serbin, L. A., Powlishta, K. K., & Gulko, J. (1993). The development of sex typing in middle childhood. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 58, v-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5834.1993.tb00380.x
- Spence, J. T., Helmreich, R., & Stapp, J. (1973). A short version of the Attitudes Toward Women Scale (AWS). Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 2, 219–220. doi: 10.1177/001316448604600221.
- Sutfin, E. L., Fulcher, M., Bowles, R. P., & Patterson, C. J. (2008). How lesbian and heterosexual parents convey attitudes about gender to their children: The role of gendered environments. Sex Roles, 58, 501–513. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9368-0.
- Trautner, H. M., Ruble, D. N., Cyphers, L., Kirsten, B., Behrendt, R., & Hartmann, P. (2005). Rigidity and flexibility of gender stereotypes in childhood: Developmental or differential? Infant and Child Development, 14, 365–381. doi: 10.1002/icd.399.
- Turner, P. J., & Gervai, J. (1995). A multidimensional study of gender typing in preschool children and their parents: Personality, attitudes, preferences, behavior, and cultural differences. Developmental Psychology, 31, 759–772. doi: 10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.2069.
- United States Department of Labor (2011). Women in the labor force: A databook. Washington, DC: United States Department of Labor.Google Scholar