Dads, did you know that doing your part with the dishes, laundry, and other household tasks might help your daughters see unlimited opportunities for their future?
Fathers who did their fair share of domestic chores raised daughters who were more likely to dream of careers not limited by stereotypical gender roles, according to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science.
"We wondered whether the division of labor at home might have implications for children's developing gender identities because of what they're actually seeing their parents do," says Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study. Croft and her colleagues interviewed more than 300 children between the ages of 7 and 13, and at least one of their parents.
To get a sense of parents' attitudes about gender roles in the home, they asked each parent who they felt should be responsible for child care, laundry, vacuuming, and other domestic duties. Then, to determine if their attitudes matched their actions, the researchers asked parents to describe how much they contributed to household tasks. Finally, the researchers turned to the children, asking what they wanted to be when they grew up.
The researchers found that daughters whose parents both preached and practiced gender equality -- meaning they divided chores and child-rearing duties equally -- aspired to careers that are nontraditional for women or are more stereotypically gender-neutral, like veterinarian, rock star, or scientist. In households where tradition held sway, girls limited themselves to more stereotypically feminine choices such as stay-at-home mom, teacher, or hairdresser. And dads, Croft was surprised to discover, made a bigger difference than moms in the daughters' responses.
"Potentially, the signals dads send to their daughters are being picked up more strongly than those from their mothers," says Croft, who had expected the children would be more likely to base their choices on their same-gender parent's behavior and attitudes.
The career goals of the boys in the study did not reflect their parents' gender-role beliefs. The researchers speculate that boys are rarely encouraged to pursue traditionally female roles in the way that many girls are.
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