Hey Dads, Want More Ambitious Daughters? Do the Dishes

A new study about gender roles, housework and how they affect children once again demonstrates the universal truth that actions really do speak louder than words. An upcoming paper in Psychological Science suggests that fathers who do an equal share of housework tend to raise daughters who aspire to careers that are less stereotypically female than those raised in households where mom handles most of the "second shift." This is true in households where both parents work, or just one.


And for those "feminist" fathers who say they are pro-women and pro-equality, but don't actually walk the walk, do the dishes, plan the meals or handle the laundry—sorry. Your daughters are getting the message that your actions (or inactions) send. Kids are smart that way.

The paper, entitled "The Second Shift Reflected in the Second Generation: Do Parents’ Gender Roles at Home Predict Children’s Aspirations?" also shows that moms' work-equality beliefs have an affect on their daughters' career aspirations. But this particular study showed an even bigger influence to be how dads handle domestic duties. Girls raised in households where the division of labor is more traditional tended to aspire towards careers that are more traditionally female dominated, like "nurse, teacher, librarian or stay-at-home mom." Whereas girls raised by dads who lack those traditional attitudes and behaviors had a wider variety of aspirations, such as police officer, doctor, accountant and "scientist, who studies germs to help doctors find out what medicine each patient needs," as one little girl in the study put it. Interviews with 326 children aged 7-13 were conducted during the research.

In other words,as lead researcher from the University of British Columbia Alyssa Croft says, "How parents treat their domestic duties appears to play a unique gatekeeper role" for how girls envision their own lives.

And while equality in the home is terribly important—and would no doubt promote more marital happiness (another study has said it makes husbands sexier to their marginally less exhausted, and friskier wives)—the real reason for this particular study is the quest for more egalitarian future workplaces. "Findings suggest that a more balanced division of household labor among parents might promote greater workforce equality in future generations," Croft writes.

So the future is now in more ways than one. Dads, don your aprons!

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