Stay-at-Home Dads Promote Gender Equality

Nontraditional roles for men and women encourage equality between the sexes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Major shifts in the traditional household and family roles of men and women have been underway for decades. From breadwinning mothers to stay-at-home dads, these roles are still in the minority but gaining in numbers.

Although they may be primarily rooted in economic necessity, these changes may also heavily influence institutional change in beliefs about gender roles.

"Exchanging traditional gender roles is good for equality."

Noelle Chesley, assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, conducted interviews with 21 married couples in 2008. These couples all had children and the husbands were stay-at-home dads.

Chesley found that while traditional family roles reinforce a range of disparities between men and women, when those typical roles were reversed it caused changes in the marital relationship that encouraged gender equality.

Even though most of the couples had swapped breadwinning and stay-home roles due to the economic downturn and employment changes, the value that the fathers placed on their involvement with their children had the potential to translate into lasting change. Trading work and family roles proved to be transformative for both partners.

The working mothers were still doing more evening housework and child-related activities than is average for working fathers. And Chesley reports that the female breadwinners may be staying involved with their families in a way that male breadwinners generally do not.

Chesley says, "At-home father arrangements generally appear to provide increased support for women’s employment and promote changes in women’s work behavior that may reduce inequities that stem from traditionally gendered divisions in work/family responsibilities."

The findings were published in the journal Gender & Society in September 2011.

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Review Date: 
September 26, 2011
Last Updated:
October 1, 2011