The challenges and conflicts their parents faced pursuing an equal division of family and financial responsibilities may explain the view of Millennials that household duties and child care are really a woman’s job.
The retreat to traditional beliefs about family roles also may be associated with recent increases in women taking the larger share in breadwinning and men in homemaking — an arrangement found to have the highest feelings of inequity and dissatisfaction with housework duties, says Daniel L. Carlson, an assistant professor of the Department of Family and Consumer Studies.
The obstacles facing families stem directly from a lack of supportive workplace and public policies, an economy that primarily benefits those at the very top and the increasingly precarious position of men in the post-industrial service economy, Carlson said.
“Although teens’ attitudes have changed it is unclear why,” Carlson said. “I contend that it is likely in response to their parents’ struggles balancing the division of labor in a way that works for everyone.”
Research highlighted by the symposium shows that young adults have become less supportive of gender equality at home over the past two decades — though not in Europe, where work/family policies are more generous. At the same time, the benefits of egalitarian marriages have increased, the council said in a press release.
The eight-part series finds that while women and men are more likely to endorse gender equality than ever, progress toward gender equality has slowed since the 1990s and among younger Millennials, a “continued endorsement of equality at work has been accompanied by a dip in support for equality at home.”
In their paper, sociologists Joanna Pepin of the University of Maryland and David Cotter of Union College report that approximately 58 percent of high school seniors in 2104 said the best family was one where the man was the breadwinner and the woman took care of the home, up from 42 percent in 1994.
The symposium features other findings from researchers across the country on issues ranging from “egalitarian essentialism” to how gender mattered to Millennials in the 2016 election.
Carlson, who studies the gendered division of labor in couples, family formation processes and life course transitions, looks at what might explain the trend in Millennials in endorsing traditional gender roles within families.
He sounds an optimistic note about the future, given his findings that egalitarianism increasingly benefits couples and is seen as the most satisfying and fair arrangement.
“While most couples do not appear ready for role reversals, and many have difficult meeting the increased flexibility demanded of them over the past decade,” Carlson says, “an equal sharing of unpaid labor — both housework and childcare — is increasingly associated with positive advantages for couples’ relationships.”
The Council on Contemporary Families, based at the University of Texas-Austin, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that explores how American’s families are changing, strengths and weaknesses of different family forms and various family interventions.