A new study shows that men reduce gender discrimination if they have a daughter in school.
The team involved in the study said that when men looked closely at womens life experiences through their children, they became more aware of the challenges facing women, a phenomenon known as the strong female effect.
The team adds that the study refutes the notion that peoples attitudes are fixed after they are formed, and suggests that efforts to improve gender equality attitudes should not be confined to the classroom.
Dr. Joan Costa-i-Font of the London School of Economics, who also participated in the study, said: Our basic view is that it is possible to change attitudes even in the later stages of life.
Although previous studies have shown that having daughters may change mens attitudes, the new study looks at when these changes will occur.
Dr. Costa-i-Font and his colleagues wrote in the Oxford Economic Papers magazine describing how they analyzed data from the annual British family group survey conducted between 1991 and 2012. The team tracked more than 5,000 men and 6,300 women who shared the common ground that they lived with their children under 21, regardless of their relationship with their children.
The team surveyed peoples acceptance of a range of statements, such as husbands job is to earn money and wifes job is to take care of family and family, and categorized those who agreed or neutral into one group and those who disagreed into another. In addition, they also investigated changes in peoples attitudes over time.
The results showed that men with daughters were more likely to oppose traditional beliefs than men without daughters, provided their daughters were in school.
Taking into account factors such as education, marital status, number of children, employment and income level, it was found that more than 37% of men who had not given birth or had only sons had a traditional concept of division of labour between men and women, while for those who had daughters and had daughters in secondary school, the probability was only 33%, compared with 11%.
Costa-i-Font said: The impact of having daughters on male attitudes will not be immediately apparent.
Although the team did not delve into why bringing up a girl triggered such a change, they said the findings showed that it was important to deepen understanding of womens lives with fathers. When they experience all the problems in the female world, their attitudes towards gender norms will ease, and they will be closer to the whole picture of the problem from the perspective of women.
However, he adds that this effect does not occur to men who already hold feminist views, nor does it affect mothers.
Costa-i-Font said his team also found this effect when investigating mens response to the statement that both husband and wife should contribute to family income. They also found that if both spouses had a school-age daughter, they were more likely to opt for men to stop working than to let women leave.
Costa-i-Font said: Its important that we find not only the impact on attitudes, but also the impact on behavior, because attitudes can be cheap talk, but behavior is not.
But he acknowledges that the study has limitations, such as that it only studies children living with their parents.
Natasha Devon, a writer and activist on mental health and gender equality, said that an important consideration was how to change the attitudes of men without daughters.
We need men to treat women as human beings, even if they have bad relationships with their mothers and sisters, even if they dont have daughters, she said.
I think we need to figure out how a daughter changes mens minds and how we can integrate this into their social lives when boys are very young.
Source: Liable Editor of Netease Scientist: Qiao Junyi_NBJ11279