Sexist Beliefs Are Passed Down From Mom, Study Finds

mother and daughter photo

Children learn more than just ABCs at their mother’s breast: a new study of 1,455 adolescents and their parents in Spain finds that mothers are the parent most likely to socialize traditional gender roles and therefore pass along sexist beliefs.

The study at the University of the Basque Country in Spain examined 1,455 kids between the age 11 and 17 and their parents (764 mothers and 648 fathers). The study found that males were more likely to hold sexist attitudes than females. But when it comes to who transfers these ideas along, the mother was more likely to have a stronger influence.

The study’s authors seemed surprised at their findings. “If we bear in mind that women are the main victims of sexism,” they wrote, “it is paradoxical that they are the ones who have a greater influence when it comes to the transference of such damaging attitudes.”

Me, I am not so surprised (despite thinking this study’s specifics seem a little fuzzy and vague). I had a feeling long before I read Peggy Orenstein’s book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The New Girlie-Girl Culture, that it was mothers who were buying their three-year-olds all this pretty, pretty princess crap. It makes sense: although fathers increasingly spend more time with their children with each new decade, it is still mothers who do the lion’s share of parenting, even when both parents work outside the home. Mothers are also more likely to be the stay-at-home parent. Women are also traditionally the purse-holders of the household, which means Mom is primarily responsible for buying toys and books.

I agree that parenting in general could use more enlightenment in regard to traditional gender roles (make sure to check out this post about feminist parenting in case you missed it!). But I would hate to see mothers demonized, however, as that is a lovely pasttime of armchair psychologists. It should be noted this study also found that a parent with sexist beliefs tends to have a sexist partner as well, which it is reasonable to infer means kids pick it up from both Mom and Dad. It’s also worth noting that the higher the family’s socio-economic status and “cultural level” (which I assume is a Spanish translation meaning education level), the less likely sexist attitudes were present. (But, of course, parents — especially Mom — are not solely responsible for the internalization of sexist beliefs. The study’s authors acknowledge that larger social groups  — say, a evangelical Christian upbringing — and the media also impact children. Which … duh.)

Do you agree with the findings of this study — or just specific bits and pieces of it? Let us know in the comments!

[Science 2.0]

[PR Newswire]

Image via ThinkStock

Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.

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