What factors can explain gender role attitudes toward division of work between parents - Comparative analysis of 24 European countries


Publication date



Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Document type


Master i sosialfag


This master thesis aims to examine factors that can explain gender role attitudes toward division of paid and unpaid work in couples with preschool children in 24 European countries. These countries differ from each other in terms of cultural, social political and gender ideological contexts which might have impact on their citizen’s gender role attitudes. At the same time, differences between individuals within national societies are assumed to be decisive in guiding them to certain beliefs about proper roles of men and women. Previous research indicates transition of European societies toward more egalitarian gender ideologies, though the pace of this development varies considerably across the boundaries. From theoretical point of view, gender role attitudes and gender practices are results of bargaining between partners with point of departure in their personal resources and gender roles they have been socialized to. Marco-level perspective suggest that personal resources, particularly of women’s, may be “ discounted” or “enforced” by contextual characteristics as for example, position of women in politics and in the labour force. In addition, different family policies send certain signals about proper roles of women and men by different measures as parental leave or provision of childcare services. Module Family and Changing Gender Roles of ISSP year 2012 provides empirical material for this thesis. The question about most desirable division of family life for couples with preschool children serves as a measurement of gender role attitudes. In the analysis a number of individual and country level variables are used to examine their possible impact on gender role attitudes. Country indicators are mainly taken from different OECD databases. Descriptive analysis has shown that citizens of Nordic countries are most egalitarian in their gender role attitudes toward division of work between parents. Anglo-Saxon and Eastern European countries appear to be least gender equal oriented in their gender ideologies. Continental European countries occupy a middle position between most traditional and most egalitarian countries. All in all, the revealed attitudinal pattern reflects different welfare strategies and family policies in Europe. Macro-level analysis in this thesis has demonstrated that strong position of women in Parliament and wide provision of childcare for the youngest children are positively associated with egalitarian gender attitudes. The findings can partially explain the leading egalitarian position of Nordic countries and predominant traditionalism in Anglo-Saxon and Eastern European countries. Nordic countries started earlier than other European countries both to introduce gender quotas to requite more women in politics and to invest in public childcare services. Full childcare coverage also for the youngest children stands on family policies’ agendas in the most of the Nordic countries. Female labour force participation rate, including analysis for part-time female labour force participation rate, has not proved to be statistically significant in my analysis. This does not implicate that women’s connection to labour market is not related to gender role attitudes. The results suggest that more components of women’s integration in the labour force are needed to be examined in order to understand how different aspects of women’s position in labour force may affect gender ideologies. Individual level analysis has shown that educational attainment is predominantly related to gender equal attitudes, both for men and women. High education is positively and significantly associated with egalitarianism in 18 of 24 studied countries. In some countries educational effect on gender equal ideology is stronger for men than for women. Left-wing political affiliation is statistically related to egalitarian views in 15 countries. Being young, less religious and employed are statistically correlated to egalitarian gender attitudes in 11 of studies countries, while being a woman are more egalitarian than men in 10 countries. Separate analysis for men and women has shown that women’s individual education and employment are mostly related gender equal attitudes in Western societies compared to Eastern Europe where female individual resources are associated to egalitarian views to far less extent. These results support the theoretical assumption about “discounted” value of women’s personal resources in societies with greater gender inequality on macro-level. The thesis highlights the importance of including both micro-and macro factors in study of gender role attitudes.




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  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/5365