Looking for a Family Man? Norms for Men Are Toppling in Heterosexual Relationships
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Gender norms indicate that men should be agentic and work-oriented rather than communal and family-oriented. Yet, this traditional expectation conflicts with findings that communion is highly valued in romantic partners. Moreover, because more women in industrialized countries are pursuing careers, they may increasingly seek family-oriented partners to share the second shift of family tasks. Investigating the attractiveness of communal, family-oriented men, we show that 87 female college students in Belgium evaluate more family-oriented men as generally more attractive (Study 1) and that especially college women in Belgium with high work ambitions seek communion and family orientation in ideal partners (Study 2, n = 224). Lastly, women in 198 Belgian heterosexual dual-earning couples are more satisfied with their lives and experience less work and family conflict the more their partner indicates that he is oriented toward his close family (Study 3). Together, our findings outline the contextualized nature of norms and add to knowledge on norm change, showing how gender equality may be fed through romantic relationships. Moreover, our findings suggest the importance of exploring men’s family orientations in couples therapy, and they call for counselors, as well as policymakers and Human Resources practitioners, to guide men in times of norm change to enable men to be family-oriented and to offer family-friendly work policies.
KeywordsGender equality Social norms Psychology of men Marriage and family measures Work-life balance Heterosexual couples
We thank Ilka Wolter for her contribution to Study 1 and Tess Schooreel for her contribution to Study 3. This research was funded by Research Foundation Flanders Grants G.0630.14 N; G.O.E66.14 N; 12X4718N
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The protocols in Studies 1 and 2 were approved by the University of Leuven Social and Societal Ethics Committee. Study 3 (2013–2014) was carried out before this committee was founded (April 2014) but complies with the guidelines of this later committee, with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards, and with the privacy laws.
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