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

Hillary Halpern

Document Type Open Access

Abstract

This longitudinal study examined the association between parents’ early and concurrent gender ideology and gendered behaviors and their children’s gender-role attitudes at age six. Specifically, parents' global beliefs about women's and men's "rightful" roles in society, as well as their work preferences for mothers, were considered in relation to the gender-role attitudes held by their first-graders. In addition, parents’ gendered behaviors, including their division of household and childcare tasks, division of paid work hours, and job traditionality were examined as predictors of children’s gender-role attitudes. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized parents’ early and concurrent behavior and ideology would predict children’s gender-role attitudes in unique ways, and that overall, parents' behavior would be more influential than their ideology in the development of their children's understanding of gender roles. It was also hypothesized that fathers’ ideologies would be more closely related to sons’ attitudes than daughters’ attitueds. Partial support was found for these hypotheses, and findings varied across three measures of children’s gender-role attitudes. The present study is the first of its kind to examine the relationships between both mothers’ and fathers’ gender ideology and gendered behavior with children’s gender-role attitudes from a longitudinal perspective. Findings from the current study will fill gaps in the literature on children’s gender development in the context of the family, and offer the benefit of a longitudinal exploration of the relationship between parents’ gender ideologies, gendered behavior, and children’s gender-role attitudes. Several limitations, including those related to the nature of the sample, are addressed.