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Changes in the Sex Role Attitudes of Women, 1962-1977: Evidence from a Panel Study

Publication Abstract

Thornton, Arland, and D. Freedman. 1979. "Changes in the Sex Role Attitudes of Women, 1962-1977: Evidence from a Panel Study." American Sociological Review, 44(5): 831-42.

This paper documents a tremendous shift women have made towards more egalitarian sex role attitudes between 1962 and 1977. The shift toward egalitarianism was considerably more pronounced for the global items concerned with the general principles of role segregation and division of authority within the home than for more specific aspects of role specialization, such as the sharing of housework or the legitimacy of nonhome activities for mothers. In 1962 sex role attitudes bore no appreciable relation to a wide spectrum of individual characteristics. By 1977 many of these basic characteristics were related to sex role attitudes. Younger women, those with more education, those with better educated husbands, and those who were working in 1962 were more likely than others to adopt egalitarian sex role attitudes, while mothers of large families and fundamentalist Protestants tended to retain traditional attitudes. The experience of the women during the 1962 to 1977 intersurvey period also was associated with a shift in sex role attitudes. Additional education, work for pay, and exposure to divorce were associated with shifts toward egalitarian attitudes while additional births were associated with retaining traditional attitudes.

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