Changing families, unchanging attitudes: the effect of marriage, divorce, and childbearing on gender role attitudes in Sweden

Gayle Kaufman, Davidson College
Eva Bernhardt, Stockholm University

While evidence from the U.S. indicates that individuals who marry and have children become more traditional in their attitudes, does this hold for Sweden? In other words, how strong are egalitarian attitudes in Sweden? Can they withstand changing family dynamics such as marriage and children? In this paper we are able to study change (or stability) in gender role attitudes among young adults in Sweden, arguably one of the most gender-equal societies in the world. Since we have longitudinal data, we can study change over time for the same individuals. We focus on family transitions as the main explanatory variable (i.e. union formation and dissolution, as well as the transition to parenthood) and examine their impact on five different measures of gender role attitudes. Using data from the 2003 and 2009 Swedish Young Adult Panel Survey (YAPS), we find very few significant effects of life course transitions on changes in gender role attitudes. In fact, of 20 regression models investigating cohabitation, marriage, divorce, and childbearing on changing attitudes, only three union transition coefficients are significant. We conclude that there is great stability of attitudes in this highly egalitarian society. It seems young Swedish adults’ gender role attitudes are fairly immune to union and parenthood transitions.

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Presented in Session 63: Life course

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