Masculine and Feminine Traits on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, 1993–2012: a Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis

Abstract

The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) is one of Sandra Bem’s most notable contributions to feminist psychology, measuring an individual’s identification with traditionally masculine and feminine qualities. In a cross-temporal meta-analysis of U.S. college students’ scores on the BSRI (34 samples, N = 8,027), we examined changes in ratings on the Bem masculinity (M) and femininity (F) scales since the early 1990s. Additional analyses used data collected in a previous meta-analysis (Twenge 1997) to document changes since the BSRI’s inception in 1974. Our results reveal that women’s femininity scores have decreased significantly (d = −.26) between 1993 and 2012, whereas their masculinity remained stable. No significant changes were observed for men. Expanded analyses of data from 1974 to 2012 (94 samples, N = 24,801) found that women’s M rose significantly (d = .23), with no changes in women’s F, men’s M, and men’s F. Women’s androgyny scores showed a significant increase since 1974, but not since 1993. Men’s androgyny remained the same in both time periods. Our findings suggest that since the 1990s, U.S. college women have become less likely to endorse feminine traits as self-representative, potentially revealing a devaluation of traditional femininity. However, it is also possible that the scale items do not match modern gender stereotypes. Future research may need to update the BSRI to reflect current conceptions of gender.

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Correspondence to Kristin Donnelly.

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Donnelly, K., Twenge, J.M. Masculine and Feminine Traits on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, 1993–2012: a Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis. Sex Roles 76, 556–565 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0625-y

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Keywords

  • Change over time
  • Sex roles
  • Femininity
  • Masculinity
  • Androgyny