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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Stay at Home Parent, What Are Your Attidudes? Gender Beliefs

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 17th 2007

A very clever experiment was recently conducted by a science blogger named Dave Munger whose brief study was reported on an interesting web site known as "Cognitive Daily." His original article and findings can be found at: http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/ His experiment involved having subjects read a story about a person named "Jordan." The purpose of the study was to learn whether people would have biases towards parents based on whether they worked outside the home or stayed at home. The number of subjects in the study was 1200. Based on the version of this story they were given to read subjects were asked about the number of hours that "Jordan" worked.

You see, Jordan is a name that could be either male or female. Based on what the subjects read they drew conclusions about the number of hours that "Jordan" worked. "Jordan was a working Mom or Dad whether He or She worked inside or outside of the home. The results were graphed to demonstrate existing assumptions and biases based on gender. Women, or mothers came out looking rather bad. Here is why:

First, those subjects who read that Jordan was a Father Who Worked Outside the Home assumed that he worked more hours than Mother Who Worked Outside the home.

Second, those who read that Jordan was a Stay at Home Dad assumed that he worked more hours than Mother who was a Stay at home Mom.

Third, and this is the clincher, those who read that Jordan was a Stay at Home Dad assumed that he worked more hours than Mother worked outside of the home.

Fourth, Stay at Home Mothers were assumed to work less than Mother or Fathers who work outside of the home.

The bias revealed in the study is that working women, whether they are employed inside or outside of the home work less than men.

What does all of this mean?

For one, the study seems to reveal gender bias in that women were perceived as working less than men, whether they worked in or outside of the home.

Second, those who work at home seem to be viewed as people who work less. Does this reveal a stigma attached to anyone who works at home? It is difficult to know from this study, but if that is true it is troubling in an age where, thanks to computer technology, more people than ever are able to conduct business from their home.

We know that women are reported to suffer more depression than men and there is a lot of speculation about why. For one, it is thought that female hormones and the menstrual cycle play a part in this. However, is it possible that women experience more depression than men because they have to cope with negative attitudes towards them as women?

What are your thoughts and experiences with regard to this issue? Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

need some information on empty nest - stay at home dad with day care - Sep 14th 2009

I have found the same experience as a man. I asked what I could count on my wife for on a regular basis; I was told "I will take the garbage out on pickup day. There are way to many tasks to running a home and meeting the needs of my own three children and six of other peoples. The children all thank me for being there and tell me it is time for me to do some things for me. I really need some information on empty nest and the how and what to do. Sure have a sense of what stay at home moms go through.

I agree - - Feb 13th 2009
I am a stay at home mom and I totally agree. I too once worked full-time but decided to stay home because I was dissapointed with daycare. My husband was never happy when I worked because I didn't have time to cook, now that I am home he wonders what I do all day. Meanwhile I am working harder than ever raising two kids. I wear many hats as a stay at home and have to juggle a ridiculous amount of tasks...whereas when I worked outside of the home I had a set amount of things to do and I did them all within the allotted time. Breaks included. I get no breaks now. I can't even go to the bathroom in peace. I spend every single day washing dishes, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry...not to mention meal planning, activity planning for the kids, etc. It's crazy. And I still manage to have a hot meal waiting for my husband when he gets home. What do I get in return? Why isn't the laundry done? Mind you I also work from home. So add a whole slew of new 'to-do's' I find I am depressed all the time because my husband makes me feel guilty that I don't bring home what I used to (I can make more money that he can FYI) but then I think about putting my kids back in daycare so I can earn a paycheck and I feel GUILTY for ABANDONING them. Women put so much on themselves and society just ADDS to the burden by making us feel like we have to be these super-women. Meanwhile all men have to do is show up to work to make a 6 figure salary and they are the 'hero'.

Women are in a no win situation - - Sep 26th 2008

I am a working mom now and have been a stay at home mom.  Women are judged more harshly than men either way.  If I am at home I am a freeloader.  If I work I am abandoning my family.  Women are depressed more often because they are never valued for their contribution whatever that is at the time.  There is always this idea we should be doing more.  I recnetly went to a conference for professional women and we were encouraged to volunteer more.   Men don't get fed this kind of retoric at every turn.  They are not expected to constantly give away their talents and energy. They are encouraged to market their talents and skills have some one pay you for your gifts.   They are not bombarded with messages of thier inadequacies and endless responsibility to the community and friends and family and employers. All of whom ahve the right to attempt to apply some traditional tv land sterotype to you.  It seems we are always facing a negative image of ourselves.  I wonder to myself at times if this constant bombardment is worse if you are a part of a racial minority or a single mom. 

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