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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1986 Mar;50(3):517-22.

Sex typing and division of labor as determinants of marital change across the transition to parenthood.


This investigation examines the proposition that wives who describe their personality in ways that deviate from sex stereotypes will become less positive and more negative about their marriage from before to after they become mothers, particularly when the transition to parenthood is accompanied by an increase in the traditionalism of marital roles. Sixty-one couples were studied longitudinally from the last trimester of pregnancy through the third postpartum month. The wives completed the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence & Helmreich, 1978), which measures the extent to which they ascribe personality attributes stereotyped as "masculine" (i.e., instrumental, agentic) and "feminine" (expressive, affectional) to themselves, and several questionnaires assessing the marital relationship at both times of measurement. Results revealed that the more division of labor changed toward traditionalism, the greater the decline in wives' evaluations of the positive aspects of marriage and that changes in wives' evaluations of both positive and negative aspects of marriage can be significantly predicted by the interaction of the wives' expressivity and changes toward increased traditionalism in division of labor. Additional analyses showed that wives who do not ascribe female sex-typed attributes to themselves (relative to those who see themselves in sex-stereotyped ways) are more apt to evaluate their marriage less favorably from before to after parenthood when roles shift toward greater traditionalism.

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