Ok, so now I’m just being cheeky and provocative…
9-5 Sox, with the M.A.S. at a conference, and me in my fave spot on the couch with my PC in my lap.Â Thought I’d cross-link with a conversation going on over at Pandagon, that began at Feministing, regarding a study (full text) on gendered attitudes towards “childlessness.”Â The authors run a regression of 11k+ survey responses (from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”) in 1987-88 and 1994 to
(all my emphases throughout)
“…the parenthood imperative: [i.e.] whether â€˜’it is better to have a child than to remain childless’ [and]
…whether ‘the main purpose of marriage these days is to have children’…
[and] responses to a common warning about the negative consequences of remaining childless: that â€˜â€˜people who have never had children lead empty lives’…â€?
They find that there is a strong if complex gender gap between women’s more positive attitudes towards childlessness (what they describe as being more “comfortable” with the idea) than men’s, particularly due to gendered attitudes toward marriage and its perceived trade-offs.Â
First, the other factors:
- Race plays a role (in order of discomfort: Hispanics, white men, black men, black women, white women);
- Religiosity matters, though not as much as you’d think (because women are more religious than men, so it counters their otherwise greater average comfort; Baptists and Jews are the least “comfortable” with childlessness);
- Gender egalitarian beliefs matter, though modestly, because they make both women and men more comfortable with childlessness;
- Work status and education matter, especially the latter.Â
However, the authors find that gendered attitudes toward marriage are the strongest factor in influencing our attitudes towards childbearing/rearing.Â
â€œOur findings show that attitudes about marriage play the strongest (though still only partial) role in helping to explain the gender gap. Womenâ€™s less traditional views of the importance and permanence of marriage reduced the observed gender difference in attitudes about childlessness by about 30%.
Women were more likely than men to disagree or give neutral responses to the statements that â€˜it is better to marry than to remain singleâ€™ and that â€˜marriage is for life.â€™
These results indicate that women may be less optimistic than men about the benefits and permanence of marriage. As marriage is still regarded by many as the preferred context for parenthood, women may be more likely to accept childlessness as a possible or preferred outcome compared to the risks of an unsatisfactory marriage or of single motherhood following divorce.
Greater opportunities for women in the labor force have allowed women to define their identities, accomplishments, and economic status independently of marriage and family, but they have added new moral dilemmas as both men and women navigate the conflicts between work and family commitments (see Gerson, 2002; Jacobs & Gerson, 2004).”
Re: education and gender, the authors write:
â€¦we find that the influence of education is also conditioned by gender…with a considerable gap in attitudes between men and women with a college education. These results suggest that the costs and rewards of parenthood may be most divergent at higher levels of education, where womenâ€™s opportunity costs may be most acute, but fathersâ€™ enhanced status translates into more substantial social and economic rewards (Blair-Loy, 2003; Coltrane, 2004).
Further, more educated men and women may experience more overt social and moral pressures with regard to personal and family decisions (May, 1995), even as their careers offer less flexibility for combining professional success and family responsibilities (Blair-Loy; Hertz, 1997; Jacobs & Gerson, 2004).
For women, competing moral frameworks regarding devotion to work and family, which are deeply encoded in social structures and culture, provide a contradictory and morally charged environment within which to consider motherhood (Blair-Loy).
Now, in keeping with the lecture format of this blog, discuss.Â I’ll be back to check your work in the comments section of this postÂ shortly.