New Research on Gender Roles Reveals What We’ve Always Known

April 16, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

A few days ago I reported on Brad Wilcox and Samuel Sturgeon’s piece that dealt, however imperfectly, with recent data showing a continuation of a gradual trend toward traditional sex roles by young millennials.Among other things, I pointed out that, whatever the attitudes of people when they’re young, when it comes to caring for children, their behavior tends strongly to fall into the traditional roles, i.e. mother as caregiver, father as breadwinner.That is, even when 20-somethings espouse egalitarian values, mothers pulling half the load of earning and fathers half the load of childcare, when the first child comes along, they strongly tend to opt out of the brave new world.

So yes, a 20+-year trend away from non-traditional sex roles within the family still only has a following of 28% of those surveyed, but 10 or so years from now will see far greater numbers of them happily choosing traditional roles in the home.

This of course should come as no surprise to anyone, but alas it does.A century ago, people of both sexes would have found the notion that sex roles are interchangeable to be absurd.They didn’t know the science showing the hormones that connect parents to children, how they affect receptors in the brain, etc.But they knew what humans and other social mammals had always done.That, over a couple of generations, we’ve managed to unlearn that basic and most obvious of information and substitute for it a feminist ideology entirely untethered from known reality is cause for alarm.That we’ve done it during a time when the scientific understanding of gender roles was increasing hugely verges on the unreal.

But whatever the cause of our international flirtation with the idea that sex roles are entirely social constructs, the science on the matter is otherwise and it’s finally getting the upper hand as articles like this strongly suggest.Still, the tone of the linked-to piece is one of discovery, as if feminist unreality were the most natural thing in the world, but patient science has now rebutted it.What’s actually happening is that we’re rediscovering what’s long been known and that humanity has taken for granted for millennia.It’s a step forward, but sadly that step only takes us back to where we were.

That said, the article by Steven Rhoads is worth the read.For example, it points out why gender-neutral parental leave laws ended up helping male university professors more than female ones.No one who knows the basics about the sexes would be surprised by that result because clearly, mothers will tend to use the leave more than fathers will and therefore fall behind in their bid for tenure.And that is precisely what happened.

For example, gender-neutral tenure-extension policies at the nation’s 50 leading economics departments hurt female faculty. Rather than leveling the playing field, one study by a group of economists found that they “led to a 19 percentage-point rise in the probability that a male economist would earn tenure at his first job. In contrast, women’s chances of gaining tenure fell by 22 percentage points.” The study suggested that many men had used the stopped clock to conduct research, while the women concentrated on parenting duties.

To which, millennia of humans would say simple “Duh!”Only in our enlightened age could we be perplexed when mothers choose childcare over paid work and fathers do the opposite.

Similarly, my own research (with my son Christopher) on gender-neutral parental leave found that fathers on the tenure track did less infant/toddler care than mothers on the tenure track, even if the men took parental leave after the child’s birth and the women did not. Moreover, when new parents were asked who did more when it came to 25 specific infant and toddler care tasks, on average, the spouses of the male professors did all 25 more often, while the female professors did all 25 more often than their spouses.

Could it be that mothers do most of the childcare because they’re biologically programmed to do so?Could it possibly be that mothers caring for children isn’t the malign working of an evil patriarchy but rather a species doing what it’s always done because, evolutionarily, it works?Here’s Rhoads’ kicker:

One explanation for these findings could be that in the parental leave study, the female professors reported that they enjoyed doing most of these tasks, and they enjoyed them more than their male counterparts.

Again, duh!

To his credit, Rhoads pegs feminism as the culprit in our culture-wide failure to understand the basics about male and female sex roles.

Ignoring the stronger female inclination to nurture seems certain to thwart feminist efforts well beyond academia. Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book Lean In has spawned lasting initiatives meant to spur the progress of women to positions of power in major corporations. To the same end, late last year, 27 CEOs of major corporations joined a new organization that seeks “gender parity at the top of major companies by 2030.” 

Such efforts should benefit the many women, mothers included, who want full-time work and aim to rise to the top in their professions. Yet, as this essay will show, most women who have dependent children don’t want to work full-time, much less to put in the hours required of corporate titans. We should listen to these women, too.

The wage gap is explained almost entirely by the differing choices men and women make about how much to work and earn.One of the two main reasons women earn less is because they work fewer hours than do men.They work fewer hours because they choose to care for their children instead of toiling in the corporate salt mines.

And of course what’s true for the wage gap is likewise true of the gaps in academic advancement discussed by Rhoads.

More on this tomorrow.




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#mother’srole, #father’srole

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *