Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective

By Irene H. Frieze; Jacquelynne E. Parsons et al. | Go to book overview
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Making Life Decisions

*During the first half of this century, young people entered into their adult roles with less confusion than many have today. Society presented clear guidelines about the appropriate role choices for men and women, and most followed these directives. Everyone was expected to marry and have children. A woman was to make a "good" marriage and subsequently to devote her energies to her children, husband, and home responsibilities. The husband was to support the family and be a father to his children. People could decide who they wanted to marry and had some control over how many children they wanted but, for most men and women, the general life style designated by society as most desirable was accepted without much question.

Generally, people have basic needs for expressing intimacy, nurturance, and competence (McClelland, 1975). The traditional roles outlined for women and men allowed people to fulfill these needs in a particular way. Many were content to do this. Some, however, found that these traditional roles did not fulfill their individual needs. A man might resent his economic responsibilities and see his work as a burden rather than a source of need fulfillment. Similarly, a woman might feel that her wife and mother roles provided her neither a sense of accomplishment nor recognition.

Those who chose to deviate from the traditional roles usually could expect pity or disapproval. Women who remained single or did not have children were viewed as unfulfilled, unhappy, and unfeminine. The assumption was

Irene Frieze and Esther Sales were the primary authors of this chapter.


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