Gender role attitudes: An examination of within-individual malleability and the value of dyadic congruence
Type of Degreedissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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Suggestions from structural symbolic interactionism and recent empirical studies are that gender role attitudes are malleable – able to change and be redefined – at the individual-level in relation to significant experiences. This dissertation explored the process of gender role attitude malleability and the implications of attitudinal malleability in the following studies. The first study examined how divorce and remarriage affect within-individual gender role attitude growth across a 20-year period. Longitudinal analyses (N = 1,731) found that marital status transitions uniquely affect gender role attitude change patterns. Remaining in a first marital relationship was related to a slight, but significant decline in traditional gender role attitudes. The experience of divorce was associated with a slight acceleration in the decline in traditional attitudes, while the experience of remarriage was associated with a slower rate of decline in traditional attitudes. As such, transitions out of marriage were related to more egalitarian attitudes, but transitions into remarriage were associated with attitudinal shifts similar to being in a first marriage. Preliminary evidence is also presented related to the possibility that attitudinal shifts towards more egalitarian attitudes may precipitate divorce for some. Implications for theoretical refinement are given. The second study sought to simultaneously evaluate three theories that hypothesize about the link between gender role attitudes and couple quality – the companionate theory of marriage, the gender theory of marriage, and a dyadic attitudinal congruence model. Data from couples (N= 383 couples) engaged in couple and relationship education (CRE) provided a context to evaluate how gender role attitudes and changes in couple-level attitudinal congruence influence relational outcomes. Using structural equation modeling and the actor-partner interdependence model (APIM), findings indicate no “best” type of gender role attitude (either traditional or egalitarian) for predicting couple quality for men and women. Rather, greater gender role attitude congruence between couples predicts increased intimacy for the husband/male partner. In turn, higher levels of male intimacy predict increased perceptions of couple quality for both partners. Tests of moderation reveal that findings were similar, regardless of race. Theoretical and practical implications can be drawn as this study empirically evaluates several theoretical perspectives and provides insight for practitioners and the content of CRE.