Changing Family Roles: How Perceptions Affect Reality

Research out of the University of Arizona shows that when women are brought up to believe that they can be career-focused successful, they are more likely to see gender roles as changing and believe that men are becoming stay-at-home-dads. When they expect a male to be the primary breadwinner in the household, they don’t focus on career development as they expect to enter into a more traditional, care-giver role.(1)

It’s a simple finding, makes sense, but has dramatic implications for society and parenting:

  • What kind of adult do you want your child to be?
  • How much influence as a parent should you have over the role your child takes as an adult?
  • To what extent is role conflict contributing to the declining rate of marriage? (Yes, the divorce rate is dropping, but fewer people are getting hitched.)
  • Is role conflict contributing to the declining rate of giving birth? (Yes, that’s going down as well, but not equally in all ethnic groups.)
  • What happens to people when they can’t fit into the roles they are raised to expect? Can they adapt? Or is that tied to increasing rates of depression?

The focus of the article is on younger women, but my questions are gender-neutral. Men are just as challenged — and frankly always have been. Manual labor often is seasonal work, and the stereotypical “hitting the taverns” isn’t a good substitute for doing other things at home when on layoff. Men aren’t being raised to be flexible or adaptable and that can cripple them as adults.

Life happens. It usually isn’t want we expect it to be.


  • Alyssa Croft, Toni Schmader, Katharina Block. Life in the Balance: Are Women’s Possible Selves Constrained by Men’s Domestic Involvement? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2018; 014616721879729 DOI: 10.1177/0146167218797294
  • University of Arizona. “How young women view men affects how they imagine their future selves.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 December 2018. <>.

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