Maternal employment and gender role attitudes: dissonance among British couples in the transition to parenthood

Pia S. Schober, University of Cambridge
Jacqueline Scott, University of Cambridge

This study examines how changes in women’s and men’s gender role attitudes after becoming parents relate to women’s paid work and the type of childcare used. Identifying attitude-practice dissonances matters because how they get resolved influences mothers’ future employment. Previous research examined changes in women’s attitudes and employment, or spouses’ adaptations to each others’ attitudes. We extend this literature by considering how women and men adapt to parenthood in terms of attitude and behavioural changes and by exploring indirect effects of economic resources. We use the British Household Panel Study (1991-2007) and apply structural equation models and regression analysis. We find that greater egalitarianism among women and men is more likely in couples where women’s postnatal labour market participation and the use of formal childcare contradict their more traditional preparental attitudes. Women’s preparental earnings and education have an indirect effect on attitude change by providing (dis)incentives for maternal employment.

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Presented in Session 7: Life course

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