Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Attitudes towards Parental Employment: A Ranking across Europe, Australia, and Japan

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Attitudes towards Parental Employment: A Ranking across Europe, Australia, and Japan

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Family attitudes and gender roles are key drivers of changing family patterns (Dommermuth et al. 2015; Frejka 2008; Goldscheider et al. 2015). The attitudes towards maternal employment do not only refer to the family but are also related to gender roles and the distribution of household labor. Research on attitudes towards parental employment and especially the country comparative perspective is very important for better understanding fertility behavior and gender culture. Evidence from panel data indicates that gender role attitudes and family formation are related in a dynamic process, in that gender role attitudes influence family formation and vice versa (Hanappi et al. 2016; Moors 2003). Differences in attitudes towards demographic behavior and values are large across countries (Aassve et al. 2013). The gendered division of paid work and care and individual attitudes towards it are crucial for understanding the gendered nature of welfare states (Haas 2005; Lewis 2002).

The political, social and economic contexts as well as the cultures of care shape individual family attitudes. In modern societies there are dominant social norms and attitudes towards family and gender, which are part of an overall cultural system and embedded in the institutional system of a country.

Parental employment - especially maternal employment - involves the need of external childcare. From various perspectives the relationship between parental employment and external childcare on the one hand and children's wellbeing on the other hand has been studied (Hsin and Felfe 2014; Ruhm 2004). Results indicate a positive effect of early institutional childcare (kindergarten, qualified day-care mother) on children's cognitive and linguistic development (Loeb et al. 2007; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Early Child Care Research Network 2000; Sylva et al. 2011) their social competencies (Barnes et al. 2009) and no significant association between first-year maternal employment and elevated levels of child behavior problems (Brooks-Gunn et al. 2010). In line, Lombardy and Cooley (2014) conclude that early employment poses no risks on the development of chil- dren's cognitive skills. Children from families with low and middle income as well as children from families with a migration background benefit the most from the early external childcare and therefore from the early parental employment (Loeb et al. 2007). From an economic perspective, Havnes and Mogstad (2011) report a positive effect of involvement in external childcare on education and labor participation in later life course as well as a lower risk of dependence on social assistance. In addition, the role of familial habitus is shaping children's views of their future employment, as indicated by an intergenerational transmission of non-traditional attitudes from mothers to their children (Johnston et al. 2014). It turned out that daughters are significantly more likely to reach higher school degrees, participate in the labor force, and work more hours if their mothers held non-traditional beliefs. Mothers' attitudes are also significantly associated with sons' partners' (daughter-inlaw) labor supply. This could explain an important part of gender inequalities in economic opportunities.

We study attitudes towards the statements "A pre-school child suffers if his/her mother works" and "Children often suffer because their fathers concentrate too much on their work." We adopt the culturalist research perspective as we concentrate on social values and norms in a broad range of post-modern countries (Haas 2005; Pfau-Effinger 1998). The aim of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of cross-country differences in gender roles and family models. By studying not only the attitudes towards combining motherhood and work when children are at preschool-age, but also by addressing the less studied issue of the role of fathers in childrearing, we bring new insights into the perception of parenthood across Europe, Australia and Japan. …

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