The Relationship between Background Variables and Sex-Typing of Gender Roles and Children's Chores: The Israeli Case

Article excerpt

Introduction

The massive entry of women into the labor market in Israel and other western countries in recent decades has aroused growing research interest in issues related to the division of gender roles in the home, at work, and in society (Berk, 1985; Pleck, 1985). Moreover, since many women in the labor market are mothers, it can be assumed that they need assistance in the home from family members, and that children have begun to take on more of these responsibilities (Goodnow, 1988). In light of this trend, recent research has dealt with issues related to children's roles in the home, including parental sex-typing of children's chores (for reviews, see Benin and Edwards, 1990).

The main goal of this study is to explore sex-typing of adult roles in the family, at work, and in society as well as sex-typing of children's chores. Israeli society is an appropriate context in which to examine these issues. On the one hand, it is family-oriented and maintains traditional sex roles. On the other, it has witnessed a transition toward modernism and even post-modernism (Fogiel-Bijaoui, 1999). One manifestation of these processes is a gradual change in gender roles, which have come to be viewed as more unisex than in the past (Izraeli, 1994).

A basic concept for examining sex-typing of roles in the present study is that of schemata, which refers to cognitive frameworks for organizing, interpreting, and recalling information (Fiske and Taylor, 1991). One type of schemata is role schemata, which reflect perceptions of how individuals should perform specific roles (Baron and Byrne, 2002). Gender role schemata, for example, are reflected in sex-typing, or perceptions of what a man, woman, boy, and girl should do around the house. These role schemata develop in a process of socialization (Major, 1998).

One of many theories that deal with socialization mechanisms is role theory, which maintains that expectations for individual behavior in any social context, for example, in the family, are related to the individual's status in the social system (Sarbin, 1954; Turner, 1982). Thus, sex-typing of feminine and masculine roles (adults and children) can be seen as expectations that derive from socialization processes, and that are related to cultural and social contexts (for a review, see Walker, 1999).

Studies on sex-typing of adult gender roles have found that at all stages of the life cycle, men's perceptions tend to be more sex-typed than those of women (Evelo et al., 1991; Flerx et al., 1976; Galin and Dubin, 1991; Kitaichick, 2001; Kulik, 2000; O'Keefe and Hyde, 1983). With regard to children's chores, it has been argued that mothers and fathers encourage sex-typed activities in daughters and sons (Lytton and Romney, 1991), although fathers show a greater tendency to differentiate between boys and girls (Siegal, 1987).

Further to these findings, the present study examined gender differences in sex-typing of adult gender roles and children's chores. Moreover, an attempt was made to determine whether men and women differ in the coherence of role sex-typing, in other words, is the relationship between sex-typing of adult gender roles and children's chores stronger among women than among men? In this context, Izraeli and Tabory (1988) found that women's perceptions of gender roles are more coherent than those of men.

Furthermore, assuming that background variables influence sex-typing of gender roles, the study explored the relationships between several background variables and sex-typing of adult gender roles and children's chores among men and women.

Three types of background variables were examined in this context:

1. personal background variables (age, religiosity, and ethnicity);

2. education and employment variables (level of education, extent of job position, and earning patterns);

3. family variables (marital status, length of marriage, number of children, and age of children). …