SANDRA LEE BURNS, Fordham University


Developmental changes in women's sex-roles and the factors influencing those changes were examined. Of particular interest was the impact of age and situational variation on women's sex-role orientation as well as self-perceived change in women's sex-roles from one life-stage to another. Two measuring instruments were used: (A) The Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1978), for measuring sex-roles and (B) The Attitudes Towards Women Scale (Spence & Helmreich, 1972), measuring attitudes about women's rights and roles in contemporary society. The influence of two variables were analyzed: (1) age was divided into the young age group of 20-39 years, and the middle age group of 40-59 years, (2) situation was either the "Mother-Homemaker", the "Dual-Career", or the "Career-Only" situation. These variables were analyzed first in a cross-sectional design and then in a design that tapped women's self-perceived changes through prospective and retrospective reports. One-hundred and eighty-six women responded to the pencil-and-paper questionnaires. The hypothesized effects of age did not appear to exert a significant influence on women's sex-role development. There was a pervasive main effect of situation on sex-role measures of masculinity and for women's attitudes. In the younger age group, it was the "Dual-Career" women who reported having the most masculine sex-roles and the most egalitarian attitudes. There was little difference between the "Mother-Homemaker" and "Career-Only" women, suggesting the fact that young "Career-Only" women may still make further life changes. However, in the 40-59 year old sample, the "Career-Only" women reported having the most masculine sex-roles. "Mother-Homemaker" women in both age groups had the most traditional attitudes and demonstrated a trend towards greater levels of femininity in their sex-roles. Levels of both masculinity and femininity were found to be higher in Life-Stage II than in Life-Stage I. It remains a question for future researchers to direct their efforts towards a longitudinal study of women as their lives progress and their sex-roles develop.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

BURNS, SANDRA LEE, "SEX-ROLE DEVELOPMENT IN WOMEN" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8709226.