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Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

DOI 10.1007/s11199-015-0539-0


Parents Gender Ideology and Gendered Behavior as Predictors

of Childrens Gender-Role Attitudes: A Longitudinal Exploration
Hillary Paul Halpern 1 & Maureen Perry-Jenkins 1

Published online: 9 September 2015

# Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Abstract The current study utilized longitudinal, self-report between parents gender ideologies, parents gendered behav-
data from a sample of 109 dual-earner, working-class couples iors, and childrens gender-role attitudes.
and their 6-year-old children living in the northeastern United
States. Research questions addressed the roles of parents gen- Keywords Child development . Division of labor .
der ideology and gendered behaviors in predicting childrens Feminism . Family socialization . Gender . Parent-child
development of gender-role attitudes. It was hypothesized that relations . Working class
parents behavior would be more influential than their ideol-
ogy in the development of their childrens attitudes about gen-
der roles. Parents responded to questionnaires assessing their Introduction
global beliefs about womens and mens Brightful^ roles in
society, work preferences for mothers, division of household At an early age, children demonstrate stereotyped beliefs
and childcare tasks, division of paid work hours, and job about the gender roles that are dominant within their culture
traditionality. These data were collected at multiple time (Berk 2009). Researchers have documented young childrens
points across the first year of parenthood, and during a 6- tendency to Bessentialize gender^that is, to make assump-
year follow-up. At the final time point, children completed tions about males and females based on their sex (Gelman
the Sex Roles Learning Inventory (SERLI), an interactive et al. 2004, p. 1). Rigid adherence to stereotypical gender roles
measure that assesses gender-role attitudes. Overall, mothers can have negative consequences in childhood and beyond, as
and fathers behaviors were better predictors of childrens these stereotypes can limit childrens educational and occupa-
gender-role attitudes than parents ideology. In addition, tional aspirations, perceived academic competency, emotional
mothers and fathers played unique roles in their sons and expression and social development (Liben et al. 2002; Rainey
daughters acquisition of knowledge about gender stereo- and Rust 1999). Without the ability to question socially pre-
types. Findings from the current study fill gaps in the literature scribed gender norms, male and female children alike may fail
on childrens gender development in the family contextpar- to recognize the full spectrum of their cognitive and social
ticularly by examining the understudied role of fathers in chil- capacities (Rainey and Rust 1999). Empowering children to
drens acquisition of knowledge regarding gender stereotypes broaden their views of gender-appropriate behavior depends,
and through its longitudinal exploration of the relationship in part, on identifying the factors that contribute to childrens
gender-role attitudes.
A growing body of literature examines the intergeneration-
* Hillary Paul Halpern
al transmission of gender ideologymeaning the system of values, beliefs and attitudes a person holds about the meaning
Maureen Perry-Jenkins
of biological sex and genderand how this transmission oc- curs within families (Kroska and Elman 2009). The present
Department of Psychology, Center for Research on Families,
study examines how both mothers and fathers gender ideol-
University of Massachusetts Amherst, 604 Tobin Hall, ogies and behaviors are related to their 6-year-old childrens
Amherst, MA 01003, USA attitudes about gender. Unless otherwise noted, studies cited
528 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

throughout our review of the literature were conducted in the 1998). Thus, attending to the relative roles of mothers and
U.S.; however, it is important to point out that the processes fathers ideology and behavior as they inform childrens de-
related to the gender socialization of children do not appear to velopment can enhance our understanding of childrens gen-
differ consistently across cultures. der development across cultural contexts.
The primary research question addressed in the present
study is whether mothers and fathers (a) gender ideology Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters: Does Gender
or (b) gendered behaviors are better predictors of sons and Match Matter?
daughters gender-role attitudes. These questions are ad-
dressed through the analysis of self-report data collected in Research suggests that the gender of both parent and child
the U.S. from 109 dual-earner, working-class mothers and play a role in how gendered beliefs are passed across genera-
fathers across the first year of parenthood and at a 6-year tions; however, there is conflicting evidence regarding the
follow-up, as well as data from their 6-year-old children at nature of these relationships. On one hand, a study of 346
the final time point. Social-cognitive theory informs this ex- infants, toddlers and 5-year-olds and their parents concluded
ploration of childrens gender-role attitudes, while a feminist that fathers communication about gender roles is directed
perspective attends to the often-overlooked role of socio- more toward sons than daughters, and that ideologically tra-
contextual factors in childrens development, with an empha- ditional fathers enforce more traditional behavior in children
sis on gender and social class. (Fagot and Hagan 1991). In a related study of 134 Israeli
families with adolescents, Kulik (2002) found that fathers
Significance of Study and sons have stronger ideological agreement than fathers
and daughters. A study of 158 mothers and their fifth-grade
Previous studies have tended to overlook the ways in which children found that egalitarian mothers provided equal help to
both mothers and fathers contribute to their childrens gender sons and daughters with math homework, but highly educated
socialization in unique ways, often relying on mothers reports mothers with traditional views gave more instruction to sons
of fathers behavior (Fulcher 2010) or overlooking fathers than daughters (Lindberg et al. 2008). In contrast, other find-
entirely (e.g., Cunningham 2001a, b). The current study con- ings suggest that familial gender socialization is similar for
siders the potential for both mothers and fathers ideologies boys and girls. For example, in a study of 550 high school
and performance of gendered behavior to predict their chil- and college students, the gendered content of parent-child dis-
drens gender-role attitudes in the context of two-parent, het- course varied little between families with sons versus daugh-
erosexual families. Furthermore, in light of the fact that pre- ters (Epstein and Ward 2011). Mixed findings in this literature
vious research has typically focused on middle-class fami- highlight the need for more research that addresses the roles of
liesor has not considered the potential impact of socio- parent gender and child gender in the process of childrens
demographic characteristics at allthe present study explores gender socialization.
the intersecting nature of gender and social class, as this inter-
section relates to how children develop gender-role attitudes Theoretical Perspectives on Gender Development
in the context of their working-class family systems. Attention
to these issues is crucial in order to understand the nuanced Both social cognitive theory and feminist theory offer frame-
ways in which individuals and family systems are impacted by works for understanding how socialization fosters childrens
power and oppression across multiple domains (Allen et al. development of gender-role attitudes. Social cognitive theory
2009). Finally, the longitudinal approach utilized in the pres- provides a developmental framework that emphasizes the
ent study allows for the consideration of how gender sociali- roles of both individual development and childrens social
zation occurs within families across an extended period of environments in their construction of beliefs about the roles
time, accounting for the relative roles of each parents early of men and women (Bussey and Bandura 1999; Martin and
(across the childs first year) and late (6 years later) gender Ruble 2009). A central tenet of this theory is the idea that
ideology and gendered behavior. cognitive processes are bidirectional: as a child develops,
she or he interacts with others and establishes a social net-
Gender Socialization in Contemporary U.S. Culture work. Within this network, the child continues to develop at
and Beyond a cognitive level, creating a sort of feedback loop whereby
social experiences and cognitive processes inform one another
Findings from samples of diverse nationalities suggest that (Bussey and Bandura 1999; Martin and Ruble 2009).
although gender socialization processes may vary across cul- Social cognitive theory suggests that as children develop
tural contexts (Lobel et al. 2001), parents roles in reinforcing the capacity to differentiate between males and females,
socially acceptable behaviors and discouraging unacceptable modeling plays an important role in processing and applying
behaviors is a common cross-cultural phenomenon (Rubin this knowledge. Parents are likely the most influential figures
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 529

in a childs life when it comes to modeling gender through work) or the ideologies they espouse? In addition, for children
both implicit and explicit cues. A criticism of social cognitive raised in two-parent, heterosexual families, are mothers or
theory is that it has failed to adequately attend to the impor- fathers roles more salient? Moreover, a feminist framework
tance of contextual factorssuch as race, ethnicity and social challenges us to consider how the circumstances surrounding
classthat may differently shape childrens gender develop- low-wage work may lead to a mismatch between parents
ment processes. gender ideologies and the behaviors they must enact (e.g.,
From a gender perspective, Bem (1985) asserts that chil- mothers who work outside the home despite wanting to be
dren internalize the gendered expectations promoted by their full-time homemakers), and how this may relate to childrens
cultural environments at an early age. Much of childrens early understanding of gender. In short, children are likely to be
learning about gender occurs within the family context affected by the inequalities their parents experience in low-
namely, through childrens attendance to parents subtle mes- wage work, and the associated challenges these families face
sages about gender roles (Epstein and Ward 2011; Gelman (Allen et al. 2009). In the following section, we review the
et al. 2004). Parents ideologymeaning the extent to which developmental literature that describes how children acquire
they hold traditional versus egalitarian views of mens and gendered preferences with an eye towards both social class
womens gender rolesis thought to play a part in childrens and parent gender as influential contextual factors.
development of gender-role attitudes (Bulanda 2004).
Traditional views of gender roles that emphasize womens Gendered Preferences and Stereotyping in Early
capacity for nurturance and mens leadership capabilities have Childhood
translated into the expectation that women are best suited for
domestic tasks, such as childcare and housework, while men Many studies have examined the gendered nature of pre-
should be the primary breadwinners. In contrast, egalitarian- schoolers preferences regarding toys and activities. Durkin
ism minimizes the differences between the genders and pro- and Nugent (1998) found that in a sample of 48 Australian
motes equality in terms of mens and womens roles within the 4- and 5-year-olds from a middle- to upper-middle-class fam-
family (Perrone-McGovern et al. 2014). In addition to ideol- ilies, girls already demonstrated stereotypically feminine pref-
ogy, parents behaviors socialize their children through their erences, while boys displayed stereotypically masculine inter-
modeling of either traditional or egalitarian roles; for example, ests. Furthermore, in a longitudinal study of 82 6- to 10-year
through their division of domestic and paid labor (Turner and old German children from undefined social class groups, it
Gervai 1995). was found that beliefs about gender differences are the most
A feminist perspective calls attention to the many social rigid when children are between ages 5 and 7 (Trautner et al.
and contextual factors that shape gender development. In con- 2005). Children with more rigid attitudes defined traits as
sidering the intersections of gender and social class as salient either masculine or feminine (but not both), while more flex-
contexts for parents and children, research indicates that work- ible children could consider a trait to be masculine, feminine,
ing-class, dual-earner, heterosexual couples negotiate and or both.
share household labor differently than middle-class, profes- Other studies have focused on the traits and behaviors that
sional couples. For example, women in low-income families children identify as masculine or feminine. Giles and Heyman
are more likely to be employed out of financial necessity, but (2005) compared stereotyping beliefs in a low-income sample
are also more likely to hold traditional ideologies, thereby of 40 preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) and a group of 40 7- and 8-
taking on the majority of housework (Deutsch and Saxon year-olds. Participants were read scenarios in which a charac-
1998). In contrast, for middle-class, professional couples, do- ter enacted either relational or physical aggression, and were
ing gender (West and Zimmerman 1987) often involves more then asked to guess the characters gender. Boys and girls
negotiation about an equitable division of labor because these across age groups tended to rate males as perpetrators of phys-
women tend to hold more social capital and egalitarian ical aggression and females as perpetrators of relational
ideology. aggression.
Thus, gender and social class intersect to shape the ways in It is important to note that much of the gender socialization
which couples negotiate and perform family labor (Goldberg literature focuses on typical development and average patterns
and Perry-Jenkins 2004) and, in turn, are likely to influence across children, with less attention to what factors predict
the socialization of children. Rather than carrying innate variability in childrens ideology. Focusing on average devel-
meaning, gendered beliefs are created through interactions opmental patterns limits our understanding of how early ex-
with the social environment; the concept of gender may take periences influence variability in childrens gender develop-
on context-dependent meanings (West and Zimmerman ment. Thus, our aim is to explore how parents gender ideol-
1987). In turn, questions arise regarding childrens develop- ogies and gendered behaviors (i.e., division of paid labor and
ment of gender-role attitudes; for example, do children attend family work) predict differences in girls and boys gender-
to the behaviors parents perform (e.g., household tasks, paid role attitudes.
530 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

Parents Gender Ideology and Childrens Gender-Role behave in gender-stereotypical ways with regard to
Attitudes performing both household labor and childcare (Gervai et al.
1995). As mentioned previously, however, parents ideology
Research has found that when parents have more traditional and behavior do not always align with one another, particular-
views regarding gender roles, their children also tend to think ly in working-class families; thus, it is unclear how childrens
in more traditional terms (Epstein and Ward 2011; Fulcher gender development is influenced by differing attitudes and
2010; Sutfin et al. 2008); on the other hand, when parents hold behaviors.
more egalitarian values, their children tend to have less tradi-
tional gender-role attitudes (Sutfin et al. 2008). Fathers ide- Parents Division of Childcare
ology has typically been overlooked in this literature.
Fulcher (2010) found that when middle-class mothers held Women also perform more childcare than their husbands, even
more traditional ideas about childrens gender roles, their chil- when both parents work full-time (Sayer 2005). Mothers en-
dren (ages 7 to 12) tended to report more gender-stereotyped gage in tasks like bathing and dressing children more fre-
career aspirations. Specifically, when mothers expected their quently than fathers (Moon and Hoffman 2008). Few studies
children to be interested in traditionally gendered careers, chil- have linked parents division of childcare to childrens gender-
dren expressed more interest in careers that promote gender role attitudes. A cross-cultural study conducted in England
stereotypes. A similar study of middle-class families with chil- and Hungary found that when fathers performed more
dren ages 4 to 6 found that in both heterosexual and lesbian- childcare, their 4-year-olds demonstrated less knowledge of
headed families, children were more likely to endorse egali- gender stereotypes (Turner and Gervai 1995). Contextual fac-
tarian views when their parents held similar ideas about gen- tors, such as economic conditions, may play a role in how
der roles (Sutfin et al. 2008). parents choose (or are forced) to divide childcare tasks. For
example, working opposite shifts has been linked to a more
Parents Gendered Behavior and Childrens Gender-Role equal division of childcare in low-income couples (Meteyer
Attitudes and Perry-Jenkins 2010). These findings suggest that the ways
in which parents divide labor does not necessarily reflect their
To date, it is unclear whether children attend more to parents ideological orientation, but rather external circumstances such
ideological or behavioral cues as they develop beliefs about as work conditions.
gender. Importantly, couples gender ideologies and the ways
in which they divide paid and unpaid labor may not always be Parents Division of Paid Labor
in sync (Perry-Jenkins and Crouter 1990). In fact, many
working-class couples make specific efforts to define the hus- A longitudinal investigation by Cunningham (2001b) found
bands role as primary breadwinner and the wifes role as that the more time mothers spent in paid labor through the first
primary home caretaker, even when spouses work equal hours year of their daughters lives, the less stereotypically feminine
outside of the home (Deutsch and Saxon 1998). Given that housework their daughters performed as adults. The observed
parents gender ideologies and gendered behaviors are not effect was not mediated by mothers work hours when daugh-
always congruent, the question of how children use this infor- ters were 15 years old, suggesting that children are particularly
mation to form their own gendered beliefs is intriguing. Thus, attuned to messages about the division of gendered labor in
the current study examines both the ideology and behavior of early childhood. Additional evidence for the lasting effects of
working-class parents as predictors of childrens gender-role mothers participation in paid labor is provided by Fan and
attitudes. Four domains are examined in which parents may Marini (2000), who found that in a sample of 1422 year olds,
perform gendered behavior: household labor, childcare tasks, mothers employment during adolescence was positively as-
work hours, and job traditionality. sociated with their childrens reports of egalitarian beliefs as
young adults. Although fathers spend increased time in paid
Parents Division of Household Labor labor across the transition to parenthood (Glauber and
Gozjolko 2011), there is insufficient evidence to determine
Women in dual-earner, heterosexual couples perform more whether fathers engagement in paid labor is linked to chil-
housework than their husbands (Goldberg and Perry-Jenkins drens gender-role attitudes.
2004; Sayer 2005). Mothers who engage in more stereotypi-
cally masculine housework have children with less traditional Traditionality of Parents Occupations
ideas about gender (Serbin et al. 1993), and when parents
divide household labor equally, children think more flexibly Parents may transmit gendered messages to their children
about gender roles (Fulcher et al. 2008). Traditional beliefs through occupational traditionality (Barak et al. 1991)that
about gender have been associated with parents tendency to is, how stereotypically masculine or feminine their job is
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 531

considered to be. Job traditionality might reflect a parents Research Question 3: Are mothers and fathers (a) gen-
interests and ideology; at the same time, education and other der ideologies or (b) gendered behaviors stronger predic-
socioeconomic factors may impact parents access to certain tors of childrens gender-role attitudes, and what role does
types of jobs, and for some, taking a stereotypically feminine the match between parent gender and child gender play in
or masculine position is not a choice. Fulcher (2010) mea- these associations?
sured the traditionality of parents jobs based on the relative Hypothesis 3: Based on previous research, we expect
percent of same-gender people holding similar positions in the that the relation between mothers ideology and behavior
United States, but found no relationship between parents job and daughters gender-role attitudes will be (a) positive,
traditionality and the career aspirations of children aged 7 to and (b) stronger than the match between mothers and
12. Barak et al. (1991) found that mothers with more sons, and that the relation between fathers ideology
traditionally feminine occupations tended to have chil- and behavior and sons gender-role attitudes will be (a)
dren with more stereotyped interests, regardless of the positive, and (b) stronger than the match between fathers
childs gender. Interestingly, fathers job traditionality and daughters. In all cases, we expect that parents gen-
was not related to their childrens interests. Thus, the dered behavior will significantly predict childrens
conflicting evidence surrounding the relationship be- gender-role attitudes above and beyond the effects of par-
tween parents job traditionality and childrens gender- ents gender ideologies.
role attitudes merits further consideration.
The current study examines (a) parents early and concur- To test these hypotheses, principal component (PC) vari-
rent gender ideologies and (b) parents early and concurrent ables representing each parents (a) Early Ideology, (b)
gendered behaviors as predictors of their childrens attitudes Concurrent Ideology, (c) Early Behavior, and (d) Concurrent
about gender, as well as (c) whether parents ideologies are Behavior were used as predictors in hierarchical regression
better predictors of childrens gender-role attitudes than par- models to examine relationships between each set of predic-
ents behaviors. We consider the ways in which boys and girls tors and each child outcome. All analyses were run separately
may attune to and learn differently from mothers and fathers for mothers and fathers. To answer Research Question 1,
ideology and behavior, and the unique instances that may arise models tested the main effects of mothers early and concur-
within working-class families when resources limit the ability rent ideology on each of three indicators of childrens gender
for parents ideology and behavior to align. We ask the fol- ideology: gender stereotypes regarding ones own gender;
lowing questions: gender stereotypes regarding the opposite gender, and gen-
dered career preferences. These models were then replicated
Research Question 1: How are parents (a) early gender with fathers early and concurrent ideology. The same process
ideologies (measured during the first year of parenthood) was used to address Research Question 2, using PCs for each
and (b) concurrent gender ideologies (measured when parents early and concurrent gendered behavior. For
children are 6 years old) related to the gender-role atti- Research Question 3, Gender Ideology PCs were entered into
tudes held by their first grade children? the model as predictors in Step 1, followed by Gendered
Hypothesis 1: Based on social cognitive theory, it is pre- Behavior PCs in Step 2. Given the limited sample size, we
dicted that more traditional gender ideology at both time tested interactions between child gender and each predictor
points will be significantly related to 6-year-olds tradi- separately, then developed final, trimmed models for each
tional attitudes, assessed through their (a) gender role outcome.
stereotypes pertaining to their own gender, (b) gender role
stereotypes pertaining to the opposite gender, and (c) gen-
dered career preferences. Method
Research Question 2: How are mothers and fathers (a)
early performance of gendered behaviors and (b) concur- Participants and Procedure
rent performance of gendered behaviors related to the
gender-role attitudes held by their first grade children? Participants were 109 dual-earner, working-class couples and
Hypothesis 2: Based on social cognitive theory, it is pre- their children. Families were recruited for a longitudinal study
dicted that parents performance of more traditional gen- through prenatal education classes at hospitals in Western
dered behavior at each time point will be significantly Massachusetts prior to the birth of their first child. Criteria
related to childrens traditional gender-role attitudes, for eligibility included the following: (a) both members of
assessed through (a) knowledge of gender role stereo- the couple were employed full-time (32+ hours per week)
types pertaining to their own gender, (b) knowledge of prior to the babys birth, (b) both members of the couple
gender role stereotypes pertaining to the opposite gender, planned to return to full-time work within 6 months of the
and (c) gendered career preferences. babys birth, (c) both members of the couple were Bworking-
532 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

class^ (defined by restricting education level to an Associates limited to the 109 families for whom we had data for all of
Degree or less, and work to unskilled or semiskilled positions, the measures we assessed (e.g., some mothers were not
(d) both members of the couple were expecting their first employed at phase 6, and not all children completed the
child, and (e) the couple was either married or cohabiting SERLI at the follow-up interview).
(for at least 1 year) at the time of inclusion in the study. On average, mothers were 27 years old (SD = 4.82) and
Data from the hospitals and clinics we recruited from indi- fathers were 29 years old (SD = 5.03) upon beginning the
cated that 75 to 85 % of first-time parents attended prenatal study. In terms of race, the majority of participants identified
classes. Of the 1525 % of parents not attending classes, close as White (95.4 % of mothers and 90.8 % of fathers). It should
to 80 % of that group were single mothers and did not fit the be noted that to address the lack of racial and ethnic diversity
criteria for inclusion in the study. Thus, we had access to a in the current study, this project is being replicated with a more
fairly representative sample of first-time parents. Trained racially and ethnically diverse sample. The majority of
graduate students were given 5 min at the beginning of prena- mothers (72.5 %) and fathers (83.5 %) held high school di-
tal classes to describe the study to expectant parents and ad- plomas or the equivalent; 24.8 % of mothers and 14.7 % of
dress questions. At that time, prospective participants com- fathers had an Associates degree. No parents held a 4-year
pleted a short demographic form with information on age, college degree. Mothers reported an average gross salary of
relationship status, income, type of job, work hours, and intent $24,123 (SD = $10, 309) at the first time point. The average
to return to work after the babys birth. On a second sheet, income for fathers at this time was $31,028 (SD = $11,204).
respondents indicated whether they were willing to be Of the children who participated in the study, 62 were girls
contacted to learn details about the project and, if so, they (56.9 %) and 47 were boys (43.1 %). Children ranged in age
provided their contact information. Potential participants from 6.22 to 7.50 years (M = 6.90, SD = .26).
who completed the screening materials received a phone call,
at which time researchers further explained the scope of the Measures and Variables
study and assessed eligibility. Of the sample that was called,
approximately 70 % chose to participate. Families received Parents Gender Ideology
$50 for their participation in each interview, for a total of
$200, which was a strong incentive for this low-income sam- Parents global gender ideology was assessed at two time
ple. In comparing our participants to the broader population of points during the first yearduring the third trimester of preg-
first-time parents attending prenatal classes, the present sam- nancy, and when children were 6 months old. Mothers and
pleas expected, given the selection criteriawas less edu- fathers each completed the Mens and Womens Roles ques-
cated, had lower family income and worked more hours than tionnaire (Brogan and Kutner 1976), a 36-item inventory that
the full sample of new parents participating in prenatal asks respondents about their beliefs regarding prescribed gen-
education. der roles and gendered behaviors. Participants responded to
Data were collected from parents at five time points across items (including BIt is certainly acceptable for boys, as well as
the first year of childrens lives, and from parents and children girls, to play with dolls^) on a 6-point Likert scale, where B1^
approximately 6 years after the childs birth, as children were indicated BStrongly Agree^ and B6^ indicated BStrongly
entering first grade. Data collection took place from 1996 until Disagree.^ Cronbachs alphas ranged from .77.87 for wom-
2008. Parents were interviewed individually in their homes: 1) en, and .90.91 for men.
during the wifes third trimester of pregnancy; 2) after the The Attitudes Towards Women Scale (Spence et al. 1973)
babys birth, but before the mother had returned to work (ap- was used at the 6-year follow-up based on its brevity and the
proximately one month postpartum); 3) approximately one need to shorten the lengthy home interview. The AWS in-
month after mothers returned to work full-time (on average, cludes 15 items that assess beliefs about gender roles using a
4 months postpartum); 4) when babies were 6 months old (via 4-point Likert scale. Items include BWomen earning as much
a mailed survey); and 5) when children were 1 year old. as their dates should bear equally the expense when they go
Scores for the early predictors of gender ideology and gen- out together.^ Participants rated items from 1 (BAgree
dered behavior were averaged across all time points during the strongly^) to 4 (BDisagree strongly^). Cronbachs alphas were
first year. All participants of the larger study (N = 153) were .75 for women and .83 for men. The AWS was highly corre-
invited to participate in a 6-year follow-up study, and 79 % lated with Mens and Womens Roles questionnaire (r = .86 for
(N = 121) consented. During a face-to-face interview, children women and r = .92 for men).
completed the Sex Roles Learning Inventory (SERLI; Each parent was also asked about their preferences regard-
Edelbrock and Sugawara 1978), an interactive measure of ing mothers involvement in paid labor at four time points
gender-role attitudes, and both parents completed measures during the first year, and when children were 6. These prefer-
of gender ideology and assessments of the divisions of paid ences were expected to reflect beliefs about the primary role of
and unpaid labor. The sample from the present study was mothers in childrens lives. Women were given the prompt,
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 533

BWhile some individuals have a strong desire to work outside When children were 6, parents completed the Childcare
of the home, others would rather not. How do you feel about Involvement questionnaire (Bouchard and Lee 2000) which
working now?^ Preferences were rated using a Likert scale assesses developmentally appropriate parental tasks such as
ranging from 1 (BStrongly prefer NOT to work^) to 4 monitoring a childs morning routine and putting their child
(BStrongly prefer to work^). Average scores were created for to bed, as well as childcare tasks, which include such activities
data collected across the first year. as staying home when their child is sick or helping their child
clean their room. Using a 7-point Likert scale, mothers and
Parents Gendered Behavior fathers each reported how often they performed both daily and
occasional childcare tasks, where 1 indicated BNever^ and 7
Parents gendered behaviors were measured through question- indicated BAlmost always.^ Cronbachs alphas for this mea-
naires that assessed the division of household labor (Cowan sure were .71 for mothers and .77 for fathers.
and Cowan 1987), childcare tasks (Barnett and Baruch 1987;
Bouchard and Lee 2000), and participation in paid Parents Work Hours
Parents reported the total number of hours per week that they
Division of Household Labor spent performing paid labor.

Participants completed Who Does What?, a 15-item ques-

tionnaire (Cowan and Cowan 1987), at four time points Traditionality of Parents Occupations
during the first year and again when children were 6 years
old. Analyses included each parents mean score on the Each parent received a job traditionality score on a scale of 0
feminine household tasks subscale of this measure, com- 100, where higher scores represent more traditionally femi-
posed of eight items assessing participants perceptions of nine jobs, and lower scores represent more traditionally mas-
the proportion of traditionally feminine household tasks culine jobs. Scores were taken directly from the most recent
they performed relative to their spouse. Participants were census data published by the United States Department of
prompted with activities such as Bdishwashing^ and Labor (2011), and reflect the percentage of women who com-
Blaundry,^ rated how often they performed each task using prise the total number of people currently holding a given job
a 5-point Likert scale, where 1 indicated BMostly or always title in the U.S. An early job traditionality score was devel-
my spouse/partner^ and 5 indicated BMostly or always oped based on each parents job title when children were 1 year
me.^ Cronbachs alphas ranged from .65.74 for mothers old, and a concurrent job traditionality score was developed
and .51.59 for fathers across four time points during the based on parents job title when children were 6. Means for
first year. It should be noted that measures of household parents traditionality scores are reported in Table 1.
task performance sometimes yield low alphas because indi-
vidual items on these scales are not expected to be inter- Childrens Gender-Role Attitudes
nally consistent (Goldberg and Perry-Jenkins 2007).
Importantly, the division of family labor is often disrupted The SERLI (Edelbrock and Sugawara 1978) was used to as-
following the birth of a couples first child (Cowan and sess childrens knowledge of gender-role stereotypes and how
Cowan 1999). As expected, Cronbachs alphas for this flexible they were when applying this knowledge to their own
measure were higher at year 6 (.70 for mothers and .72 behavior. Three outcomes from the SERLI were included.
for fathers). Gender stereotypes regarding ones own gender (GS-OWN)
assessed girls knowledge of feminine stereotypes and boys
Division of Childcare Tasks knowledge of masculine stereotypes, and gender stereotypes
regarding the opposite gender (GS-OPP) assessed girls
Participants completed the 15-item Childcare Responsibility knowledge of masculine stereotypes and boys knowledge
inventory (Barnett and Baruch 1987) after their childs birth, of feminine stereotypes. Data were collected for these sub-
1 month after mothers returned to work, and when children scales by showing children pictures of objects (such as a ham-
were 1 year old. Participants reported their relative contribu- mer or a doll) and asking them to identify the object as Bfor
tion to tasks including Bfeeding the baby,^ and Btaking the girls,^ Bfor boys,^ or Bfor girls and boys.^ Upon completion
baby to a doctors appointment,^ using a 5-point Likert scale, of this activity, children engaged in a forced-choice exercise in
where 1 indicated BMostly or always my spouse/partner^ and which they were asked to identify the gender-neutral objects
5 indicated BMostly or always me.^ Cronbachs alphas ranged as either feminine or masculine. Scores ranged from 60 to 100
from .83.89 for mothers, and .76.80 for fathers on this mea- on GS-OWN and 10100 on GS-OPP, reflecting the percent-
sure across the first year of parenthood. age of correctly identified stereotypes, with a high score on
534 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

Table 1 Descriptive statistics for mothers and fathers predictors Table 1 (continued)
based on child gender
CCT (Full sample) 2.56*** .25
Mothers Year 1 Predictors Boys 2.61a .23
Gender ideology (Full sample) 5.30*** .45 Girls 2.52a .27
Boys 5.32 .42 Work hours (Full sample) 45.67*** 8.24
Girls 5.29 .48 Boys 44.67 5.32
Work preferences (Full sample) 2.54** .67 Girls 46.50 10.02
Boys 2.44 .64 Job traditionality (Full sample) 24.88*** 22.88
Girls 2.61 .68 Boys 22.38 23.13
Fem. HHT (Full sample) 3.96*** .49 Girls 27.08 22.66
Boys 3.94 .45 Fathers Year 6 Predictors
Girls 3.96 .52 Gender ideology (Full sample) 3.27*** .44
CCT (Full sample) 3.67 .37 Boys 3.25 .55
Boys 3.67 .39 Girls 3.28 .33
Girls 3.67 .36 Work preferences (Full sample) 2.55 .80
Work hours (Full sample) 35.61*** 10.48 Boys 2.72b .72
Boys 36.57 10.22 Girls 2.42b .85
Girls 34.82 10.70 Fem. HHT (Full sample) 2.43*** .64
Job traditionality (Full sample) 65.87*** 24.96 Boys 2.49 .59
Boys 63.33 24.23 Girls 2.36 .68
Girls 68.02 25.59 CCT (Full sample) 3.86*** .88
Mothers Year 6 Predictors Boys 4.09c .79
Gender ideology (Full sample) 3.46*** .34 Girls 3.65c .91
Boys 3.47 .32 Work hours (Full sample) 45.88*** 11.91
Girls 3.44 .36 Boys 44.99 11.22
Work preferences (Full sample) 2.61 .95 Girls 46.57 12.47
Boys 2.60 1.01 Job traditionality (Full sample) 28.88*** 27.29
Girls 2.61 .91 Boys 29.90 28.77
Fem. HHT (Full sample) 4.10*** .58 Girls 28.10 26.38
Boys 3.99a .55
Girls 4.20a .59 p < .01; *** p < .001 indicates that mothers scores differed signifi-
cantly from their husbands at the same time point. Different letter super-
CCT (Full sample) 5.29*** .85
scripts (a, b, c) indicate boys and girls differ on mean scores. High scores
Boys 5.06b .78 on global gender ideology (scale: 16 for Year 1; 14 for Year 6) indicate
Girls 5.48b .86 more egalitarian beliefs. High scores on work preferences (scale: 14)
Work hours (Full sample) 33.81*** 13.24 indicate stronger preferences for mothers to work outside the home. High
scores on traditionally feminine household tasks (Fem. HHT; scale: 15)
Boys 36.70c 11.33 and childcare tasks (CCT; scale: 15 for Year 1; 17 for Year 6) indicate
Girls 31.67c 14.22 more frequent performance of tasks relative to ones partner. Higher
Job traditionality (Full sample) 65.28*** 25.16 scores on job traditionality indicate that more women than men in the
U.S. who hold the same job title
Boys 60.05d 22.42
Girls 69.23d 26.57
Fathers Year 1 Predictors
each of these subscales indicating more knowledge of gender
Gender ideology (Full sample) 4.88*** .59
Boys 4.93 .61
The SERLI also assessed childrens gendered career
Girls 4.84 .58
preferences (GCP) through an activity that gauged childrens
Work preferences (Full sample) 2.72** .58
interest in future traditionally gendered occupations. Children
Boys 2.74 .54
were shown pictures of adults engaging in traditionally femi-
Girls 2.71 .61
nine or masculine occupational positions (such as teacher and
Fem. HHT (Full sample) 2.45*** .40
firefighter) and asked to report how much they would be in-
Boys 2.49 .32 terested in each occupation. Scores ranged from 27 to 80,
Girls 2.40 .45 reflecting the inverse of the sum of probabilities that children
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 535

would rank-order stereotypically gendered careers over non- job traditionality. These Gendered Behavior PCs were con-
stereotypically gendered careers. For girls, a high score indi- structed individually for mothers and fathers during the first
cates more interest in traditionally feminine occupations; for year and during year 6. Scores on the original measures were
boys, a high score indicates more interest in traditionally mas- recoded so that in all cases, high scores represent a more
culine occupations. traditional division of labor. Specifically, for mothers, a high
score on the Gendered Behavior PC represents more tradition-
Control Variables ally feminine behavior (i.e., housework, childcare, traditional-
ly feminine job position), and less traditionally masculine be-
Because there was some variability in income among families, havior (i.e., hours spent in paid employment). For fathers, a
and because divisions of paid labor might not reflect working- high score on the Gendered Behavior PC represents less tra-
class couples gender ideologies (Deutsch and Saxon 1998), ditionally feminine behavior and more traditionally masculine
we controlled for each parents income. Reported individual behavior.
gross income, measured on a continuous scale at each time
point, was included in regression models.
Given that multiple indicators of parents gender ideology
and gendered behavior were assessed, and to retain greater Results
power for the analyses, we used Principal Components
Analysis (PCA; Afifi et al. 2004) to create composite variables Descriptive data for parents predictor variables at each time
representing four substantive constructs: 1) Early Gender point are displayed in Table 1. Means and standard deviations
Ideology, 2) Early Gendered Behavior, 3) Concurrent are reported for parents of all children (BFull sample^)and
Gender Ideology, and 4) Concurrent Gendered Behavior for separately for mothers and fathers of girls and of boys.
each parent. Gender Ideology PCs for mothers and fathers Notably, a MANOVA analysis revealed no significant mean
included two measures (a) global gender ideology, and (b) differences between boys and girls on any of the three out-
work preferences. Scores on the original measures were come variables.
recoded so that for both mothers and fathers, a high score on Table 2 displays correlations among mothers and fathers
the Gender Ideology PC represents more egalitarian views, PC predictor variables at both time points with boys and girls
while a low score represents more traditional views. The scores on each of the outcome variables. Analyses revealed
Gendered Behavior PCs were comprised of four constructs: that mothers and fathers gross income at each time point was
(a) performance of traditionally feminine household chores, unrelated to childrens gender-role attitudes, so these control
(b) childcare tasks, (c) average weekly work hours, and (d) variables were excluded from final analyses.

Table 2 Correlations between parents gender ideology and gendered behavior and childrens gender-role attitudes

Mothers Mothers Mothers Mothers Fathers Fathers Fathers Fathers

Early Early Concurrent Concurrent Early Early Concurrent Concurrent
Ideology Behavior Ideology Behavior Ideology Behavior Ideology Behavior

Gender StereotypesOwn Gender .17 .05 .21 .39* .09 .03 .05 .04
Gender StereotypesOpposite Gender .07 .02 .04 .07 .39** .07 .22 .17
Gendered Career Preferences (GCP) .09 .39** .04 .20 .09 .17 .07 .14
Gender StereotypesOwn Gender .13 .39** .26* .45** .17 .25+ .14 .22
Gender StereotypesOpposite Gender .08 .06 .03 .13 .05 .04 .11 .02
Gendered Career Preferences (GCP) .15 .11 .19 .23 .03 .22 .18 .16
p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01. For both mothers and fathers, a high score on the Gender Ideology scale represents more egalitarian beliefs. For mothers, a
high score on the Gendered Behavior scale represents more traditionally feminine behavior (i.e., housework, childcare, traditionally feminine job title),
and less traditionally masculine behavior (i.e., hours spent in paid employment). For fathers, a high score on the Gendered Behavior scale represents less
traditionally feminine behavior and more traditionally masculine behavior. For children, high scores on GS-OWN and GS-OPP indicate more knowledge
about gendered stereotypes. High scores on GCP indicate more interest in gender-stereotyped occupations
536 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

Parents Gender Ideology and Childrens Gender-Role Gender Stereotypes

Mothers early gendered behavior was a marginal predictor of
Our first research question tested the main effects of mothers childrens gender stereotypes about their own gender ( = .19,
and fathers early and concurrent ideologies on childrens p < .10). When mothers reported engaging in more tradition-
gender-role attitudes. It was predicted that more traditional ally gendered behaviors during childrens first year of life,
gender ideology at both time points would be significantly children reported more knowledge of gender-role stereotypes
related to 6-year-olds traditional attitudes across the three regarding their own gender. Mothers concurrent behavior and
SERLI subscales. Multicollinearity was not a concern in re- fathers gendered behavior at both time points were unrelated
gression models for mothers (VIF = 1.181.19 for early and to childrens scores on GS-OWN. No relationships emerged
concurrent ideology) or for fathers (VIF = 1.641.66 for early between mothers or fathers early or concurrent reports of
and concurrent ideology). gendered behaviors and childrens knowledge of stereotypes
relating to members of the opposite gender.
Gender Stereotypes

Childrens knowledge of gender stereotypes was assessed in Gendered Career Preferences

two domains: (a) stereotypes about members of their own
gender (GS-OWN) and (b) stereotypes about the opposite Mothers early gendered behavior significantly predicted chil-
gender (GS-OPP). Only one trend was observed for mothers drens interest in traditionally gendered occupations ( = .35,
concurrent ideology ( = .21, p < .10). Mothers more egal- p < .01), and this finding held up when controlling for
itarian values when children were 6 were related to children mothers concurrent behavior ( = .34, p < .01). The more
demonstrating less knowledge about stereotypes regarding mothers engaged in traditional behavior during the childs first
their own gender. There were no significant relationships be- year of life, the more children demonstrated interest in gender-
tween fathers early or concurrent gender ideology and chil- stereotypical careers. In addition, fathers who engaged in
drens scores on the GS-OWN measure. No relationships more traditional behavior during the childs first year had chil-
emerged between mothers early or concurrent reports of gen- dren who expressed an interest in more gender-stereotyped
der ideology and childrens knowledge of stereotypes about professions ( = .25, p < .05). In sum, both mothers and
the opposite gender. In contrast, as fathers reported more egal- fathers gendered behavior during the first year predicted 6-
itarian values, children showed less knowledge of stereotypes year-olds gender-role attitudes above and beyond parents
relating to members of the opposite gender ( = .28, p < .01). concurrent behavior.
Furthermore, fathers early gender ideology predicted chil-
drens scores on this measure even after controlling for fa-
thers concurrent ideology. Relative Effects of Parents Gender Ideology
and Gendered Behavior on Boys and Girls Gender-Role
Gendered Career Preferences Attitudes

Neither mothers nor fathers ideologies at either time point Research Question 3 addressed the combined effects of gen-
predicted childrens interest in future occupations. In sum, der ideology and gendered behavior as predictors of childrens
relatively few findings linked parents early or concurrent gender-role attitudes across the three subscales. It was predict-
gender ideology to childrens gender-role attitudes. ed that the relation between mothers ideology and behavior
and daughters gender-role attitudes would be (a) positive,
Parents Gendered Behavior and Childrens Gender-Role and (b) stronger than the match between mothers and sons,
Attitudes and that the relation between fathers ideology and behavior
and sons gender-role attitudes would be (a) positive, and (b)
Research Question 2 examined the main effects of mothers stronger than the match between fathers and daughters. We
and fathers gendered behavior on childrens gender-role atti- expected that parents gendered behavior would predict chil-
tudes. It was predicted that a significant, positive relationship drens gender-role attitudes above and beyond the effects of
would exist between parents performance of traditional gen- parents gender ideologies. Analyses showed that the assump-
dered behaviors and childrens traditional gender-role atti- tion of collinearity was met in the models for mothers
tudes across the three outcome measures. Multicollinearity (VIF = 1.291.33 for early and concurrent ideology, and
was not a concern in the regression models for mothers 1.171.22 for early and concurrent behavior) and the models
(VIF = 1.171.19 for early and concurrent behavior) or for for fathers (VIF = 1.611.64 for early and concurrent ideolo-
fathers (VIF = 1.611.65 for early and concurrent behavior). gy, and 1.641.71 for early and concurrent behavior).
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 537

Gender Stereotypes regarding feminine stereotypes and the less knowledge boys
showed about masculine gender stereotypes (see Fig. 1).
For mothers, concurrent gender ideology was a marginal pre- The final trimmed model for GS-OPP predicted 15 % of the
dictor of childrens knowledge of gender stereotypes regard- variance in this outcome, and was primarily explained by an
ing their own gender (see Table 3). The more mothers held interaction between fathers early ideology and child gender.
egalitarian beliefs when children were six, the less knowledge The more traditional ideology fathers held during the first
children demonstrated about stereotypes relating to the childs year, the more knowledge their sons had regarding feminine
own gender. This trend held up even when mothers early and stereotypes. Conversely, more egalitarian fathers had sons
concurrent behavior variables were added to the model. There with less knowledge about feminine stereotypes (see Fig. 2).
were no significant relationships between fathers early or No relationship emerged for fathers early ideology and
concurrent ideology or behavior and childrens scores on this daughters knowledge of masculine stereotypes.
measure. There were no significant relationships between
mothers early or concurrent ideology or behavior and chil- Gendered Career Preferences
drens knowledge of opposite-gender stereotypes. One trend
emerged for fathers, such that the combination of both early The final model explained 21 % of the variance in GCP and
and concurrent gender ideology predicted childrens knowl- included all eight parental predictors, but no interaction terms
edge of stereotypes regarding the opposite gender at a margin- since child gender did not interact with any predictors (see
al level, suggesting that the more fathers held egalitarian ide- Table 4). The strongest effect revealed that the more tradition-
ology, the less stereotypical views children held about the al behavior mothers performed during the first year, the more
opposite gender. their children expressed interest in traditionally gendered ca-
reers. Contrary to our expectation, a trend revealed that fa-
Gendered Career Preferences thers more egalitarian views in the first year predicted chil-
drens preferences for more stereotypical careers.
The more traditional behavior mothers engaged in during the
first year, the more children expressed interest in traditionally
gendered occupations at age six. Similarly, when fathers en- Discussion
gaged in more traditional behavior during their childs first
year, children endorsed more interest in stereotyped occupa- The present study explored relationships between parents
tions at age six. early and concurrent gender ideology and gendered behavior
and their sons and daughters gender-role attitudes at age six.
Best Trimmed Models for Predicting Boys and Girls Different findings emerged for parents gender ideology and
Gender-Role Attitudes gendered behavior relating to childrens scores on each of the
three SERLI subscales: 1) Gender Stereotypes (Own Gender);
A final set of analyses was conducted with the aim of identi- 2) Gender Stereotypes (Opposite Gender); and 3) Gendered
fying the best (trimmed) models explaining the greatest Career Preferences.
amount of variance in each of the three measures of childrens
gender-role attitudes, as predicted by both mothers and fa- Parents Ideologies and Behavior in Relation to Childrens
thers ideology and behavior, while also testing for interac- Gender Stereotypes
tions with child gender. We tested the main effects of all eight
parental predictors separately for each child outcome measure, The most significant results emerged when examining the
adding interactions between child gender and each predictor, match between mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. Girls
one at a time. Final models for each outcome are displayed in demonstrated more knowledge of feminine gender stereotypes
Table 4. when their mothers engaged in more traditional behaviors,
such as performing more housework and childcare, during
Gender Stereotypes their sixth year. In contrast, boys showed less knowledge of
masculine behavior when their mothers performed more ste-
In the final trimmed model for GS-OWN, predictors explained reotypically feminine tasks. These findings suggest that
34 % of the outcome variance (see Table 4). In this model, mothers are the primary imparters of knowledge about femi-
mothers concurrent behavior interacted with child gender to nine behavior for girls, and masculine behavior for boys. This
predict childrens knowledge of stereotypes about members of notion is supported by previous findings that women provide
their own gender. The more mothers engaged in traditionally more physical and emotional childcare than their husbands
feminine behavior, the more knowledge girls demonstrated (Moon and Hoffman 2008; Sayer 2005) and that in the process

Table 3 Mothers and fathers early and concurrent gender ideology and gendered behaviors predicting childrens gender-role attitudes

Gender Stereotypes (GS-OWN) Gender Stereotypes (GS-OPP) Gendered Career Preferences (GCP)

Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2


Early GI .83 1.30 .08 .46 1.33 .05 .86 2.06 .06 .86 2.14 .06 .95 2.05 .06 .05 1.96 .00
Concurrent GI 2.32 1.35 .21+ 2.30 1.36 .23+ .63 2.16 .04 .69 2.20 .04 .73 2.07 .05 .52 1.96 .27
Early Behavior 1.83 1.27 .18 .15 2.03 .01 5.06 1.84 .35**
Concurrent Behavior .08 1.15 .01 .48 1.87 .03 1.06 1.69 .08
R2 .08 .11 .003 .004 .01 .15
F change in R2 2.87+ 1.17 .09 .05 .32 5.45**
Early GI .49 1.28 .06 .27 1.29 .03 3.03 1.84 .24 3.12 1.88 .25 3.05 1.91 .24 3.85 1.88 .30
Concurrent GI .78 1.27 .09 .45 1.31 .05 .43 1.85 .03 .13 1.89 .01 2.49 1.88 .20 1.87 1.87 .15
Early Behavior .85 1.33 .09 1.65 1.90 .13 3.76 1.92 .29+
Concurrent Behavior .76 1.14 .09 2.16 1.94 .17 .27 1.19 .02
R2 .02 .04 .07 .09 .04 .12
F change in R2 .67 .86 2.66+ .66 1.37 3.07+

GI indicates parental gender ideology. + p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 539

Table 4 Final best trimmed models predicting childrens gender-role attitudes

Gender Stereotypes (GS-Own) Gender Stereotypes (GS-OPP) Gendered Career Preferences

Final best trimmed model Final best trimmed model Final best trimmed model


M Early GI 1.33 1.61 .13 .57 2.08 .04

M Early Behavior 1.98 1.67 .19 5.13 2.36 .35*
M Concurrent GI 1.60 1.50 .15 1.01 2.05 .07
M Concurrent Behavior 6.30 2.22 .64** 1.29 1.86 .09
F Early GI 1.11 1.44 .11 6.95 2.09 .54** 3.51 1.77 .24+
F Early Behavior .84 1.71 .09 1.26 1.94 .09 .32 2.09 .02
F Concurrent GI 2.45 1.82 .20
F Concurrent Behavior .53 1.47 .06 1.18 1.93 .09 .65 2.18 .05
Child Gender .75 2.56 .04 1.17 3.02 .04 .73 3.32 .03
M Concurrent Behavior x Child Gender 11.04 2.73 .86***
F Early GI x Child Gender 5.95 2.83 .33*
R .34 .15 .21
F change in R2 16.29*** 4.43* 2.24*
p < .10; * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001. M indicates mothers predictor variables; F indicates fathers predictor variables. GI indicates parental gender
ideology. The notation B-^ indicates that the corresponding variable was excluded from the model

of receiving more care from their mothers, children also re- of knowledge about fathers behavior. If traditional mothers
ceive messages about the roles of women and men. are married to men who perform more traditionally gendered
Social cognitive theory supports the idea that modeling behavior (e.g., spending more time in paid labor), boys lack
plays a crucial role in childrens ability to understand and of knowledge about masculine gender stereotypes might be
apply their knowledge regarding differences between males better explained by the absence of consistent exposure to their
and females (Bussey and Bandura 1999; Martin and Ruble fathers.
2009), and this process appears to explain how girls observe Contrary to our expectations, neither mothers gender ide-
and model their mothers feminine behavior. How boys learn ology nor gendered behaviors were related to childrens
about masculine stereotypes from their mothers is less clear. knowledge of gender stereotypes about the opposite gender.
Perhaps the finding that more traditional mothers tend to have Importantly, fathers early ideology was the only significant
sons with less knowledge of masculine gender stereotypes has predictor of childrens scores on this measure. Specifically,
less to do with mothers behavior, and more to do with a lack boys demonstrated more knowledge of feminine stereotypes
when their fathers held more traditional ideology during the
first year, and less knowledge of feminine stereotypes when
105 their fathers were more egalitarian. No results emerged for
Gender Stereotypes (own sex)

Gender Stereotypes (oppostie sex

95 105
Boys 100
85 Boys
90 Girls
75 Less Traditional Maternal More Traditional Maternal 80
Traditional Paternal Ideology Egalitarian Paternal Ideology
Fig. 1 Interaction between mothers concurrent gendered behavior and
child gender predicting gender stereotypes (own sex) in the final trimmed Fig. 2 Interaction between fathers early ideology and child gender
model. Note. A high score on the Gendered Behavior scale represents predicting gender stereotypes (opposite gender) in the final trimmed
more traditionally feminine behavior (i.e., housework, childcare) and less model. Note. A high score on Gendered Behavior scale represents more
traditionally masculine behavior (i.e., fewer hours spent in paid traditionally feminine behavior (i.e., housework, childcare), and less
employment). For children, a high score on the Gender Stereotypes traditionally masculine behavior (i.e., paid work hours). For children, a
(Own Gender) indicates more knowledge about gender stereotypes as high score on the Gender Stereotypes (Opposite Gender) indicates more
they relate to members of the childs own sex knowledge about gender stereotypes about children of opposite gender
540 Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542

fathers and daughters. These findings align with previous re- consistently across the early years, continuity may be the crit-
search suggesting that fathers ideology is more closely relat- ical ingredient. It is notable that fathers behavior and ideology
ed to sons attitudes than to daughters (Kulik 2002). If tradi- had little influence on girls outcomes. In contrast, fathers with
tional fathers caution their sons against engaging in feminine more egalitarian ideology in the first year of life had sons with
behavior, it would hold that sons of traditional men have more fewer stereotypes about the opposite gender. This finding,
knowledge of these feminine stereotypes than sons of egali- similar to the early behavior findings for mothers, is critical
tarian men. Furthermore, because fathers have been found to because it suggests that fathers early egalitarian ideology may
react less positively to 18-month-old boys play with stereo- be a precursor to a series of family patterns and decisions that
typically feminine toys than with stereotypically masculine support equal roles. Using a feminist lens, these findings sug-
toys (Fagot and Hagan 1991), it is possible that fathers dictate gest that parents who aim to raise children with flexible gender
gendered play even earlier in their sons lives. This would ideology must know that: 1) this education starts early, in the
explain why fathers early ideology predicted boys attitudes first year of life; 2) mothers behavior, both early in life and
above and beyond concurrent ideology. later, has a significant impact on both sons and daughters, and
The finding that fathers early ideology predicts boys ste- 3) fathers early ideology is particularly important for their
reotypes about girls is particularly compelling, given that fa- sons gender development.
thers gender ideology has been virtually unexamined as a The limitations of our methodological approach should be
predictor of childrens gender development over time. considered. First, three of our measuresincluding the global
Findings from the present study should be used to inform parental gender ideology scales and the SERLI were devel-
hypothesis-driven longitudinal research that follows fathers oped over 30 years ago, raising the possibility that they do not
and their children. fully capture contemporary thinking. These measures were
The key finding related to career preferences was that chosen because they were the best and most widely used mea-
mothers early gendered behavior, above and beyond their sures at the time of data collection, and they continue to be
concurrent gendered behavior, was the best predictor of both used in research. Second, our sample size was limited; repli-
sons and daughters career preferences. In short, the more cating this study with a larger sample would make it possible
traditional behavior mothers performed during the first year, to test hypotheses with more robust analyses (e.g., by using
the more their children expressed interest in traditionally gen- structural equation modeling).
dered careers. These findings are consistent with earlier re- The current study consists of working-class, predominantly
search on mothers behavior and childrens gender-role atti- White heterosexual parents and their children. The nature of
tudes (Cunningham 2001a, b; Fan and Marini 2000); howev- this sample may have influenced findings in a variety of ways.
er, no support was found for the hypothesis that fathers gen- First, economic hardship may shape the ways in which parents
dered behaviors would predict childrens career preferences. divide household and paid labor. It is possible that as a result,
Fulcher et al. (2008) found that when mothers of 6-year-olds parents gendered behavior as it is measured in the current
performed more childcare than fathers, children expressed study does not map onto parents ideology, which can cause
more interest in traditionally gendered occupations; however, strain at both the individual level and between partners
our data suggest that patterns established in the first year of life (Deutsch and Saxon 1998). In addition, it is possible that
might explain childrens attitudes above and beyond the ef- findings may differ across racial, ethnic, and religious back-
fects of parents concurrent behavior. grounds (Kroska and Elman 2009). For example, Glauber and
The question of how these findings can be used to empow- Gozjolko (2011) found that during the transition to parent-
er young children to be freer and more flexible in their think- hood, White fathers with traditional ideologies spent signifi-
ing about what it means to be male or female differs for fathers cantly more time in paid labor than White men with more
and mothers with sons and daughters. Girls are more attuned egalitarian views, but there was no relationship between ide-
to what they see their mothers doing, as opposed to what ology and work hours for Black fathers. These findings sug-
mothers might be saying about gender equality. In terms of gest that race, gender, ideology and behavior may be uniquely
career preferences, the more egalitarian behaviors mothers related for parents, and it is possible that the nuances of these
perform across the first year of life (e.g., work for pay, share relationships could impact the messages that children receive
domestic labor), the less gendered career preferences daugh- about the meaning of gender. Family structure and parental
ters and sons hold. These early behaviors are significant even sexual orientation may also shape implicit and explicit com-
when controlling for current behaviors, suggesting that early munication about gender as a construct (Goldberg et al. 2012).
modeling of gender equality matters for childrens ideology. It is likely that differences in parents ideology and behavior
The question of how this process unfolds over time is open to across diverse family structures lead to different learning ex-
inquiry. Perhaps the early parental behaviors we measured are periences for children. There is clearly more to understand
followed by a trajectory of more equitable parental behavior about how the family system shapes childrens gender devel-
over time. If parents are modeling equality for their children opment. Future research can build from the present studys
Sex Roles (2016) 74:527542 541

findings by extending the exploration of early versus concur- Cunningham, M. (2001a). Parental influences on the gendered division of
housework. American Sociological Review, 66, 184203. doi:10.
rent parental variables across a longer time period.
Cunningham, M. (2001b). The influence of parental attitudes and behav-
iors on childrens attitudes toward gender and household labor in
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MH56777). We gratefully acknowledge Aya Ghunney, Elizabeth Harvey, Deutsch, F. M., & Saxon, S. E. (1998). Traditional ideologies, nontradi-
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Durkin, K., & Nugent, B. (1998). Kindergarten childrens gender-role
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Massachusetts Amhersts Institutional Review Board. In accordance with Edelbrock, C., & Sugawara, A. I. (1978). Acquisition of sex-typed pref-
guidelines for this approval, the ethical protocol for work with human erences in preschool-aged children. Developmental Psychology, 14,
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