Sex Role Studies in the United States

Researchers generally classify sex role ideologies or beliefs along a continuum from traditional to modern. Traditional ideologies maintain that men are more "important" than women and that it is appropriate for men to control and dominate women. In contrast, modern ideologies are more egalitarian, claiming that women and men are equally important, and dominance of one sex over the other is inappropriate. Research in the United States has assumed that there is individual variation in sex role ideology. More masculine men and more feminine women are expected to have more traditional sex role beliefs, and more androgynous men and women would be more egalitarian.

A number of scales have been developed to assess sex role ideology (Beere, 1990), and one of the most frequently used is the Attitudes toward Women Scale (Spence & Helmreich, 1972). Scale items concern the roles of men and women (e.g., a woman should be as free as a man to propose marriage). Women more readily endorse egalitarian attitudes than do men, and over the years attitudes have shifted toward greater acceptance of women's rights (Spence & Hahn, 1997; Twenge, 1997). Interestingly, Martin (1990) isolated two unrelated factors in men's attitudes toward women, one dealing with traditional interpersonal roles and the other with public issues of equality of opportunity and employment. Recent studies have examined more subtle forms of sex role beliefs, such as the importance of maintaining balance in men's and women's roles (Tougas, Brown, Beaton, & Joly, 1995).

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