Men and women as parents: sex role orientations, employment, and parental roles with infants.

S. M. McHale, T. L. Huston

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63 Scopus citations


Mothers' and fathers' sex role orientations and employment situations were examined in connection with their involvement in child-oriented activities using a longitudinal research design. During interviews that took place within 3 months of their wedding dates, 34 couples completed questionnaires that measured their sex role attitudes, masculinity-femininity, and their skills and role preferences for performing a number of child-oriented activities. Approximately 1 year later, after the couples had become parents, they were interviewed about their employment situations and again about their child-care skills and role preferences for performing certain child-care tasks. During the 2- to 3-week period following the second interview, the couples were telephoned on 9 occasions and asked to report on the household tasks, leisure activities, and child-oriented activities they had performed during the 24-hour period that preceded each call. The findings showed that mothers' sex role attitudes before their infants' births predicted their role preferences after their babies were born, and these two factors, as well as mothers' involvement in the paid labor force, were related to the extent of their involvement in child-oriented activities. Mothers' masculinity and femininity, however, were unrelated to their parenting behavior. In contrast, fathers' work involvement was related only to the extent of their leisure activities with children. In addition, fathers' role preferences for performing child-care tasks and their perceived skill at such tasks (as measured both before and after their children's births) were related to the overall extent and the nature of their involvement in child-oriented activities. Fathers' role preferences were somewhat stable from before to after children's births, and fathers' preferences before their children were born predicted the mothers' preferences afterward. Neither fathers' sex-role attitudes nor their masculinity or femininity, however, predicted their activities with infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1361
Number of pages13
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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