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Parental Divorce, Maternal Employment, and Attitudes to Gender Equality in Sweden

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posted on 16.06.2020, 12:47 by Michael Gähler, Livia Olah

Objective: This analysis tests the association between parental divorce and maternal employment on adult children’s gender role attitudes.

Background: After parental divorce, mothers may increase gainful employment and fathers increase housework. These new roles may influence children’s views on gender equality.

Method: Data from two waves of the Swedish Young Adult Panel Study (YAPS), conducted in 1999 and 2003, based on a nationally representative sample of 2,491 respondents aged 22, 26, 30, and 34 years, are used for analyses. Maternal employment and childhood family type, i.e. intact family, single mother, single father, and mother and stepfather, are measured with retrospective questions. Attitudes towards gender equality are examined in the public sphere of work, the private sphere of the family, and a combined-sphere measure.

Results: Maternal full-time employment (versus non- or part-time employment) is associated with more modern private and combined sphere gender role attitudes, whereas family type in childhood is only weakly associated with young adult gender role attitudes. One exception is young adults from single father families (versus intact family), who express more modern private sphere gender role attitudes. Mothers’ full-time employment and growing up with a mother and stepfather is more positively associated with women’s than men’s modern gender role attitudes.

Conclusion: Parental family disruption adds little, maternal full-time employment adds more, to our understanding of what shapes gender role attitudes in adulthood.


the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS, dnr. 2006–1515)

the Swedish Research Council grant to the Linneaus Center on Social Policy and Family Dynamics in Europe, SPaDE (grant number 349-2007-8701)




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Parental Divorce, Maternal Employment, and Attitudes to Gender Equality in Sweden

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