This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Malleability in Gender Role Attitudes During the Transition to Divorce and Remarriage: A Longitudinal Study of Marital Experiences




Erickson, Mallory

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Gender roles affect many aspects of individual development and daily life including career goals, one’s decision to parent, familial contact, and relationships, yet most of the research on gender roles and related gender role attitudes across time occurs at the sociological level. Gender role attitudes have been shown to influence marital satisfaction and marital discord and is theorized to be malleable, yet little research exists related to how gender role attitudes change during the course of individual development particularly in the context of divorce and remarriage. The primary purpose of the present study was to examine gender role attitudes longitudinally among groups of individuals with differing marital histories. The data for this study come from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Specifically, the data set Marital Instability over the Life Course is a nationally representative longitudinal study of marital instability collected between 1980 and 2000. The subsample utilized for the current study consists of 590 individuals all of whom were in first marital relationships at the beginning of data collection. Results indicate a significant decrease in traditional gender role attitudes for the group across the 20 year period. Results also show no significant between group differences based on changes in gender role attitudes over time based on age, yet significant between group differences in reported gender role attitudes over time based on sex were found, wherein women reported greater increase in egalitarian attitudes across time compared to men. Results reveal significant time X marital status group interaction effects such that continually married individuals developed more egalitarian gender role attitudes gradually over time; individuals who divorced and remained divorced showed a sharper decrease in traditional gender role attitudes across time; while, those who divorced and remarried alternated significant decreases and significant increase in more traditional gender role attitudes across time. This suggests that while change over time occurred for the entire group, individuals in each marital status group experienced distinct patterns of change in gender role attitudes. These differences remained significant even when controlling for age, sex, and ethnicity. Overall, results indicate that gender role attitudes appear to be malleable not only at the broad sociological level, but also over the course of individual life course events and that experiences in marital relationships affect the pattern of change. The implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.