LONDON: Having a daughter makes men less likely to hold traditional attitudes towards gender roles, a trend that became particularly pronounced when daughters reached school-age, a study has found.
Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) analysed the effects of becoming the parent of a daughter on both men and women.
A representative sample of parents from a survey spanning two decades in the UK between 1991 and 2012 was assessed on whether they supported the notion of the 'traditional male breadwinner', with the wife as a homemaker.
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Researchers found strong evidence that having daughters decreases fathers' likelihood to hold traditional attitudes towards gender roles, a trend that became particularly pronounced when daughters reached school-age.
They found that a father's likelihood to support traditional gender roles typically declined by eight per cent when their daughters were in primary school and by 11 per cent when their daughters reached secondary school.
Comparatively, the effect of having a daughter on mother's attitudes was not significant, confirming findings from previous studies that having a daughter affects men and women differently.
In addition to changes in attitudes amongst fathers, the authors found behavioural change occurred, as parents of school-age daughters were less likely follow a traditional gender division of work.
While researchers do not directly test the underlying reasons for their findings, they note that instead of the change occurring at the time of the birth of their daughter, the significant attitude change occurs in fathers around the time their daughters reach school age.
This coincides with the period where children experience a stronger social pressure to conform to gender norms, researchers said.
"Through parenting, fathers of daughters may develop a better understanding of women's and girls' disadvantages in society, resulting in a significant shift in their attitudes towards gender norms," researchers said.
Mothers, on the other hand, hold less traditional attitudes to start with and appear to be less affected by parenting daughters.
This may be because they 'have already been exposed to situations of disadvantage first-hand,' researchers said.
"Traditional attitudes towards gender roles can be a barrier to achieving gender equality inside and outside the workplace, so our evidence that such attitudes can change over time is very encouraging," said Julia Philipp, a PhD candidate in LSE.
"The study shows that attitudes rather than fixed over time can change later in life. This is a very promising finding that suggests that exposure to others' circumstances can help shape behaviour," Philipp said.