Dads who do chores bolster daughters' aspirations

May 28, 2014
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/public domain

Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to less traditional, and potentially higher paying, careers.

So finds a new study that suggests how parents share dishes, laundry and other domestic duties plays a key role in shaping the gender attitudes and aspirations of their children, especially daughters.

While mothers' gender and work equality beliefs were key factors in predicting kids' attitudes toward gender, the strongest predictor of daughters' own professional ambitions was their fathers' approach to household chores.

"This suggests girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents," says lead author Alyssa Croft, a PhD Candidate in the University of British Columbia's Dept. of Psychology. "How fathers treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role."

The study, to appear in Psychological Science, suggests parents' domestic actions may speak louder than words. Even when fathers publically endorsed gender equality, if they retained a traditional division of labour at home, their daughters were more likely to envision themselves in traditionally female-dominant jobs, such as nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home-mom.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"Despite our best efforts to create workplace equality, women remain severely under-represented in leadership and management positions," says Croft. "This study is important because it suggests that achieving gender equality at home may be one way to inspire young women to set their sights on careers from which they have traditionally been excluded."

The study involved 326 children aged 7-13 and at least one of their . For each household, researchers calculated the division of chores and paid labour. They also determined the career stereotypes that participants identified with, their and work attitudes and children's career aspirations.

The study found mothers shouldered more of the burden of housework than men, which echoes previous findings. Parents and kids associated women more than men with childcare and domestic work, and girls were significantly more likely than boys to say they want be like adults who take care of kids rather than someone who has a career.

"'Talking the talk' about equality is important, but our findings suggest that it is crucial that dads 'walk the walk' as well – because their daughters clearly are watching," says Croft, noting that girls might be learning from an early age to take on additional roles, rather than different roles, compared to boys.

The study, The Second Shift Reflected in the Second Generation: Do Parents' Gender Roles at Home Predict Children's Aspirations?, took place at UBC's Living Laboratory in Science World in Vancouver. Croft's study co-authors are Prof. Toni Schmader, Katharina Block and Prof. Andrew Baron of UBC's Dept. of Psychology.

Explore further: Mothers are the most responsible in transferring of sexist attitudes

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Men more likely to be seen as 'creative thinkers'

September 28, 2015

People tend to associate the ability to think creatively with stereotypical masculine qualities, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings ...

Babies time their smiles to make their moms smile in return

September 23, 2015

Why do babies smile when they interact with their parents? Could their smiles have a purpose? In the Sept. 23 issue of PLOS ONE, a team of computer scientists, roboticists and developmental psychologists confirm what most ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.