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Revealing Gender Double Standards in the Parenthood Norm Depends on Question Order

  • de La Rochebrochard, Elise
  • Rozée, Virginie
Publication Date
Apr 13, 2022
DOI: 10.1007/s11199-022-01276-3
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Becoming a parent has been described as a dominant social norm, especially for women. Though some research has indicated changes toward more flexible gendered parenthood norms, methodological issues may be masking the continued presence of a gender double standard. In line with the condition for activation of double standards, we postulated that endorsement of the parenthood norm would vary depending on the response context. Our aim was to analyze the parenthood norm for women and for men taking into account the response context in a quantitative survey. In a French nationally-representative sample, more than 4,000 female and male adults were asked whether a woman/man can have a fulfilled life without having children in two questions presented in a random order. Based on the literature on question-order effects, the answer to the first question should be influenced by the participant’s personal background (e.g., gender, parental status), i.e., the personal background context, whereas the question asked second should be influenced by the comparison with the first question, i.e. the social relational context. In the personal background context, the own-gender parenthood norm was endorsed more strongly than the other-gender parenthood norm by both female and male participants. In contrast, in the social relational context, the parenthood norm for women was endorsed more strongly than the parenthood norm for men by both female and male participants. Our results showed a strong gender double standard observed only in the comparative context and illustrates the need to use appropriate survey methodology to examine the presence of gendered social norms.

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