THE INTERGENERATIONAL TRANSMISSION OF GENDER-ROLE ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOR: HOW DO PARENTS MATTER?
Wight, Vanessa Rachel
Bianchi, Suzanne M
This study examines the dynamic relationship between a parent's gender-role attitudes and behavior and their children's subsequent gender-role attitudes and housework behavior as adults. It uses a national sample of 1,864 young adults aged 18-32 in 2001-2002 (Wave 3), whose parents were previously interviewed in 1987-1988 (Wave 1) and 1992-1994 (Wave 2) as part of the National Surveys of Families and Households (NSFH). Overall, the findings suggest that attitudes remain stable across generations--particularly from mothers to children. Consistent with earlier research, mothers who express egalitarian attitudes about women's and men's gender roles have children who are more egalitarian on average than those with mothers who express more conventional views of women and men. Furthermore, when measures of mother's gendered ideology and housework are considered simultaneously, a mother's gender ideology is a strong predictor of both her daughter's and son's gender ideology, and this relationship holds whether or not a mother's housework behavior is consistent with her ideas. Early maternal attitudes observed when focal children were aged 2-11 (Wave 1) are significant predictors of both daughters' and sons' gender attitudes in adulthood. Results from analyses of change over time in a mother's gendered attitudes and behaviors indicate that what is modeled early in a child's life, more than its consistency, is an important predictor of a child's subsequent gender-role attitudes as an adult. When fathers are added to the analysis and the role of mother-father agreement in gender ideology is considered, the results indicate that daughters with a mother and father who both hold egalitarian views of women's and men's roles are themselves more egalitarian than daughters with parents who are both traditional. On the other hand, a son's gender ideology shows less association with mother-father gender ideology agreement. As long as one parent holds more egalitarian attitudes, a son's gender ideology is more egalitarian than sons with parents who are both traditional. The transmission of gendered behaviors from parents to children, however, appears to be less stable and more complex than the transmission of attitudes. For example, the amount of time daughters spend on housework is primarily associated with their own adult characteristics. Most notably, taking on adult family roles (such as a spouse, partner, or parent) is associated with more time women spend in housework. Yet there is some evidence that later maternal housework time (observed at Wave 2 when children were aged 10-17) is positively associated with a daughter's adult housework time, regardless of whether Wave 1 housework time was high or low. Among sons, the results suggest that the more housework a mother does in Waves 1 and 2, the more a son does in adulthood, and this relationship does not appear to be sensitive to the mother's housework time and consistency in Waves 1 and 2. Finally, the timing of exposure to a mother's attitudes seems to be more salient to a partnered daughter's share of the couple's combined housework than whether the mother's attitudes remain consistent over time. Overall, this dissertation finds that our understanding of gendered outcomes in adulthood is best understood by applying a life course perspective that acknowledges the contributions of both parental effects and children's own current circumstances-- recognizing that adult lives evolve over time, are intertwined within an ever changing society, and cannot be understood from a single survey or snapshot in time.