Cross Cultural Sex Role Studies

Cross-cultural research has examined variation in sex role ideology between cultural groups. Using Hofstede's terminology, one would assume that traditional ideologies would be found in masculine cultures and modern ideologies in feminine cultures.

Williams and Best's Sex Role Ideology Study.

In their 14-country study of masculinity and femininity described above, Williams and Best (1990b) had study participants respond to the 30-item Kalin Sex Role Ideology measure (SRI) (Kalin & Tilby, 1978) (e.g., "The husband should be regarded as the legal representative of the family group in all matters of law"). To date, this study includes the largest number and variety of countries to be examined in a single-sex role study.

Williams and Best (1990b) found the most modern ideologies in Northern European countries (The Netherlands, Germany, Finland, England, Italy), and the most traditional ideologies in the African and Asian countries (Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Japan, Malaysia). The United States was in the middle of the distribution. Consistent with previous research (Kalin, Heusser, & Edwards, 1982; Spence & Helmreich, 1978), women generally had more modern views than men, but not in all countries (e.g., Malaysia, Pakistan). However, men's and women's scores were very similar in any given country, with a correlation of 0.95 for men and women across the 14 countries. Overall, the effect of culture was greater than the effect of gender.

More modern sex role ideologies were found in more developed countries, in more heavily Christian countries, in more urbanized countries, and in countries in the high latitudes (i.e., relatively far from the equator).

Interestingly, sex role ideology scores were not correlated with Hofstede's MAS indices across the countries in the sample.

Studies with Small Numbers of Cultural Groups.

There are several studies in the literature comparing small numbers of cultural groups, but their findings are consistent with those above. For example, when asked about desirable and undesirable roles for women in their culture, Indian university students expressed more traditional beliefs than American students, and women in both groups were more liberal than men (Agarwal & Lester, 1992; Rao & Rao, 1985). University women with nontra-ditional sex role attitudes came from nuclear families, had educated mothers, and were in career or professionally oriented disciplines (Ghadially & Kazi, 1979).

Similarly, female Arab and Israeli high school students were more liberal than male students (Rapoport, Lomski-Feder, & Masalha, 1989; Seginer, Karayanni, & Mar'i, 1990). Female college students in Japan, Slovenia, and the United States are less traditional than men, with Japanese students being the most traditional of the three groups (Morinaga, Frieze, & Ferligoj, 1993). Japanese adolescents are also more traditional than German adolescents (Trommsdorff & Iwawaki, 1989).

Among both Japanese and American women, education and professional managerial work are strong predictors of sex role attitudes (Suzuki, 1991). Interestingly, American women with jobs of any kind had more egalitarian attitudes than women without jobs. Japanese women with career-oriented professional jobs differed from all other women, with or without jobs. Furthermore, British working-class women are more conservative than American working-class women, but the attitudes of upper-middle-class women in the two countries do not differ (Nelson, 1988).

Gibbons, Stiles, and Shkodriani (1991) studied attitudes toward gender and family roles among adolescents from 46 countries attending schools in The Netherlands. Students from less wealthy and more collectivistic countries had more traditional attitudes than students from the wealthier and more individualistic countries, and girls were less traditional than boys.

Overall, research shows that sex role ideology is more traditional in some cultures than in others. However, across cultural groups, males generally have more traditional attitudes toward sex roles than women. This may not be surprising because in countries with more traditional male-dominant orientations males benefit in terms of status and privileges.

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