Gender Role Attitudes: A European Cross-National Study 1990-2008

  • Claire Shepherd

Student thesis: Phd


An abstract of the thesis presented by Claire Shepherd at The University of Manchester for the Degree of Doctor of PhilosophyTitle: Gender role attitudes: a European cross-national study 1990-20082015There has been a renewed research focus on developments within the family as a result of the broad social, economic and cultural developments that have occurred across Europe since the middle of the twentieth century. Arguably the rise in female, and particularly maternal employment, has produced the greatest impact on family life and gender roles. Given that this division of labour is changing there is debate about whether men and women's expectations and acceptance of some aspects of gender roles - their gender role attitudes - have also changed. Gender role attitudes feed into an array of sociological debates such as those concerning gender inequalities, women's position in the labour market, declining fertility rates and family breakdown, and naturally feeds into the discourse surrounding welfare state and policy decision making. Whilst discussions that concern the family and personal life have also been littered with debates about the existence and influence of individualisation over every aspect of modern life.Three waves of the European Values Study (EVS) are used to explore gender role attitude change, focusing on the division of labour, over time from 1990 to 2008 and across 19 countries in Europe. Two data classification techniques are used to derive a three pronged and interconnected measure of gender role attitudes (Maternal employment, Job fulfilment and Economic independence). Two types of cluster analyses are then used to explore similarities in attitude change across countries and over time. Five welfare state typologies are then tested based on their efficacy to predict attitudes to gender roles. Finally cohort and sex-based variations in attitudes are also examined. The main findings are:• Gender role attitudes have shifted at the cross-European level towards more progressive perspectives over time from 1990-2008, with men found to be lagging behind women's more liberal attitudes.• There is evidence that welfares state typologies capture only a small amount of variance within gender role attitudes and therefore little evidence is found to support the idea that similarities in family-policy and socio-economic contexts are mirrored by similar attitudes.• The findings uncover evidence to indicate that both cohort and period effects are associated with gender role attitude change over time.• The results also identify some congruence with specific elements from theories of individualisation. The study supports findings of previous research that suggests people in these countries seem to be becoming more accepting of women's evolving biographies but that gender inequalities remain and men's attitudes continue to lag behind those of women. There is evidence to both support and reject the idea that we are living in more individualised societies.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMark Elliot (Supervisor) & Colette Fagan (Supervisor)


  • Welfare state typoloiges
  • Individualisation
  • Gender roles and gender role attitudes
  • European cross-national study

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