According to a new study, having a school-aged daughter makes men less sexist, according to the Guardian. The research has important implications for how sexism develops, suggesting that gender stereotypes are not fixed from youth and that attitudes can develop over time.
The research was carried out by the London School of Economics and supports the idea that men become more aware of the challenges facing women when they see their own offspring grow up – something known as the “mighty girl” effect.
Dr. Joan Costa-i-Font, co-author of the research from the London School of Economics, commented on the study’s implications.
“Basically we are saying there is scope for changing attitude later in life…It is not just that we find effects on attitudes; we find effects as well on behaviors, which is important because attitudes could be cheap talk, but behaviors are not.”
While previous research examined how being a father to a daughter can change a man’s beliefs and attitudes toward gender, the new study looked at when this shift might happen.
Researchers examined data from the British household panel survey, conducted every year between 1991 and 2012, which asks people to rate their agreement with statements such as “a husband’s job is to earn money; a wife’s job is to look after the home and family, etc.” The responses came from more than 5,000 men and more than 6,300 women who were living with a child under the age of 21.
Being a father to school-aged daughter 'makes men less sexist' https://t.co/fkMFHZjS0v
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 14, 2018
After examining the levels of agreement that respondents gave for the various examples, researchers determined how responses changed over time, separating them into two categories – people who agreed with or felt neutral toward the statement and those who disagreed completely.
The interesting findings of the study determined that men were more likely to disagree with traditional and stereotyped attitudes toward women if they had a daughter, and more specifically when their daughter was school-aged.
Costa i-Font explains why raising girls can trigger such a shift in men’s beliefs.
“They experience first-hand all the issues that [exist] in a female world and then that basically moderates their attitudes towards gender norms and they become closer to seeing the full picture from the female perspective.”
However, one caveat that Costa i-Font noted was that this effect was not apparent in men who already held feminist views nor was it seen in mothers.
Natasha Devon, an author and campaigner on mental health and gender equality, believes that it is important to investigate the question further and determine how we can shift the socialization process in boys from an early age to have an impact on the attitudes of men who don’t have daughters.
“We need men to see women as human beings even if they don’t have a good relationship with their mum or sisters or have a daughter. I think we need to find out what it is specifically about having a daughter that changes men’s minds and look at how we can ingrain that more into the socialization process for all boys from an early age.”