In 2015 we reported an Australian study by Dr Janeen Baxter on shifts in gender attitudes among people when they become parents. A more recent study has looked for such changes in Sweden and has found them to be less, very small indeed.

The research, led by Gayle Kaufman at Davidson College in the USA, looked at a sample of 1,800 people and observed how their attitudes towards gender equality changed between 2003 and 2009. They asked about equality in three areas: work, household and use of parenting leave.

They measured changes in the following groups:

  • Those who were single in 2003 and were in a partnership in 2009.
  • Those who were in a partnership in 2003 but single in 2009.
  • Those who were in partnerships in both years, but different partnerships.
  • Those who had experienced multiple transitions in this period.
  • Those who had become parents between 2003 and 2009.

They found only a few small changes. Becoming a parent was associated with a drop in the average level of support for sharing parental leave equally, though couples who were parents in both 2003 and 2009 also showed a slight drop. And those who had moved from one relationship to another showed a slight increase in their level of support for job equality.

Overall, women’s support for equal division of household labour and equal paid employment increased a bit more than men’s, and those whose parents shared housework more when they were children themselves were more likely to support household equality.

The authors surmise that Swedish society’s great emphasis on equality, particularly through the transition to parenthood, could explain why attitudes changed so little there compared to other countries.

Header photo: Denis-Carl Robidoux. Creative Commons.


Kaufman G, Bernhardt E & Goldscheider F (2016), Enduring egalitarianism? Family transitions and attitudes toward gender equality in Sweden, Journal of Family Issues