BBC News

Raising girls 'changes fathers' views on gender stereotypes'

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News family reporter

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Fathers are less likely to hold traditional views about gender roles if they raise a girl, research suggests.

This becomes particularly noticeable once girls reach school age, the study, from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), says.

The report finds fathers' likelihood of holding traditional views declined by 8% when their daughters reached primary school age and by 11% by secondary age.

The study concludes that attitudes can be changed by adulthood experiences.

How was the research done?

The researchers based their study on information from two surveys of UK adults spanning two decades between 1991 and 2012.

Individuals with at least one child under the age of 21 living in their household were included for the purposes of the LSE study.

Girls in the house were considered to be daughters, whether they were natural children, adopted, fostered or step-children.

In total, the views of 5,073 men and 6,332 women, with an average age of 37 and 35 respectively, were analysed.

Parents were asked to give their response to the statement: "A husband's job is to earn money; a wife's job is to look after the home and family," on a five-point scale ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree".

The research team looked at how these views changed over time, combining those who agreed or were neutral on the point into one category and those who disagreed into another.

The results showed that men with daughters were more likely to disagree with traditional attitudes than those without - provided the daughter was school-aged.

What about mums?

The study says that the effect daughters have on mothers' attitudes "is generally not statistically different".

It says: "Through parenting, fathers of daughters may develop a better understanding of women's and girls' disadvantages in society, resulting in a significant shift in their attitudes towards gender norms.

"Conversely, mothers have already been exposed to situations of disadvantage first-hand, and as a consequence, parenting a daughter has a negligible effect on their attitudes towards gender norms, which are already less traditional than those of men."

What conclusions do they draw?

The research says the findings show a change in attitudes is possible.

The report says: "We conclude that gender norm attitudes are not stable throughout the life-course and can significantly be shaped by adulthood experiences."

It concludes: "Attitudes towards gender norms seem to be malleable to experiences during adulthood such as parenting a daughter, thus suggesting that indirect exposure to disadvantage has the potential to change people's attitudes."

Co-author of the report Julia Philipp said: "Traditional attitudes towards gender roles can be a barrier to achieving gender equality inside and outside the workplace.

"So our evidence that such attitudes can change over time is very encouraging."

Related Topics

  • Gender
  • Parenting
  • Sexism