College Student Beliefs about Women: Some Gender Differences *

By McNeely, Andrea; Knox, David et al. | College Student Journal, December 2005 | Go to article overview

College Student Beliefs about Women: Some Gender Differences *


McNeely, Andrea, Knox, David, Zusman, Marty, College Student Journal


Three-hundred-and-twenty six undergraduates at a large southeastern university completed a confidential anonymous 74-item questionnaire designed to assess beliefs about men, women, and relationships held by university students. This study focused on the data regarding gender differences in beliefs about women. Men were significantly more likely than women to believe that women not married by age 30 are unhappy and depressed, that most women assume men can read their minds, that women are controlling, that women with red hair are more fiery and saucy, that women would rather get married than live together, that women are focused on money, that women are possessive, and that women are manipulative. Implications and limitations of the data are suggested.

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"Unmarried women are unhappy," "Women are focused on money," and "Women are controlling," are examples of beliefs commonly held about women. Although these beliefs permeate our society/culture and Women's Studies Programs have grown quantitatively in programs, faculty, and students (Boxer, 1998; Feminist Press, [1994] 1997; Moghadam, 2001), there is an absence of challenging specific beliefs commonly held about women. The Attitudes toward Feminism Scale (Lott, 1973) has been used in few research studies. The current study attempted to provide new research on beliefs about women with an emphasis on any gender differences.

Data and Analysis

The data consisted of 326 undergraduates enrolled at a large southeastern university who voluntarily completed an anonymous 74 item questionnaire designed to assess beliefs about men, women, and relationships held by university students. This study focused on the data regarding gender differences in beliefs about women.

Among the respondents, 69.9% were women; 30.1% were men. The median age was 19 with a range of 17 to 58. Racial identification included 83.1% white, 12.6% African-American, and 4.3% who self identified as "other." A typical profile of the respondents is that they were experienced in dating (had been in an average of 2 serious relationships) and currently dating an average of three times a month (usually the same person).

Data analysis consisted of recoding Likert responses to 15 stereotypical items about women such as "Women are looking for money not love" and "Woman are possessive" into the categories of agreement and disagreement. Such responses were cross-classified with sex of respondent and assessed for significance using chi-square.

Findings and Discussion

Analysis of the data comparing women and men on beliefs about women revealed eight significant differences.

1. Women not married by age 30 are unhappy and depressed. Men were significantly (p <.006) more likely than women to agree with this statement 16.3% of men in contrast to 6.2% of women expressed agreement with this statement. Society socializes women toward two, somewhat contradictory, goals- to be independent/pursue a career but also to marry and to have a family. However, women are stigmatized only if they do not marry and have a family (Gordon, 2003). Some research supports the belief held by men that the unmarried woman is the unhappy woman. Lewis and Moon (1997) analyzed survey data from 39 women between the ages of 30-65 and found that even though single women enjoyed the freedom to follow their personal aspirations, many felt alone, unhappy, and depressed because of their decision not to marry or to have children.

Other data have suggested that it is men, not women who suffer from being unmarried. In national study of 36,142 individuals between the ages of 25 and 64, researchers compared the mortality of singles and marrieds and found that unmarried males exhibited high mortality from social pathologies--accidents, suicide, homicide, and cirrhosis of the liver--and from diabetes, causes of death most affected by smoking, drinking, risk-taking behavior, and neglect of medical regimens (Rogers, 1995). …

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