Views of the 'Second Shift' Phenomenon in Children - Domestic Egalitarianism

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Review notes

These are some notes I jotted down while reading a study from Psychological Science linked by /r/science Reddit at 2.3k updoots. This article had a somewhat clearer design and premise than a more popular post (8.8k currently) this morning in the same subreddit. PDF to the former article and the Springer link to the latter. I am reviewing the article to talk with a new acquaintance on the phone about feminism and gender equality.


Domestic unpaid labor blocks womens career advancement and personal achievement. Wives report doing 2x as much housework and childcare, even when both parents work full time, a phenomenon known as the ‘Second Shift,’ referring to working a second unpaid shift. Because parents are early role models for their daughters, the influence of perceived gender roles can be very profound. Mother’s employment has been shown to be predictive of their children’s attitudes and aspirations. Moreover, if daughters perceive inequality in their home, a more direct and observable environment, it has an effect (unreferenced). The effect of a father’s contributions has an even less studied effect on children or daughter’s aspirations.

Interestingly, parents’ self-reported beliefs about gender roles are weakly predictive of children’s gender-role and aspirations. I would hypothesize that parents’ reported beliefs may not reflect the actual imbalance or submissive and dominant behaviors that are expressing in the view of their children.


326 total children + 38 excluded

n-87 27% of children had data from both parents

  1. How would analyzing the 87 children with both parents ‘twice’ influence the study?

Perhaps if the child-parent dyad becomes the primary focus and the results are interpreted only through m-F, m-M, f-M, and f-F, then maybe there is minimal effect of analyzing the child-couple data ‘twice’. However, given the lower frequency of the respondents where both parents participated, you may want to redo each ‘test’ with and without those dyads to control for any possible bias from any other demographic effects.

  1. Would the child-dyad pairs involving siblings also somehow influence the study?

Of course they would be more likely to be similar, and again any bulk conclusions should be redone without these effects to make sure.

  1. How does the communication style of the questions (verbal, written for children, parents respectively) influence the response?

There’s no good answer to this. The correct communication of the question free from surveyor bias is probably a critical variable in how honest the answers may be. Perhaps recorded audio might be better for the children to understand the question, to eliminate batch effects from surveyor beliefs.

  1. Does the implicit demographic bias of parents/childrens who are willing to talk about gender roles and equality in the home also ‘whitewash’ the study in a way?

If divorce rates are higher in working class families according to the Institute for Family Studies, how would that affect children’s career aspirations or perceptions of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ gender roles? i.e. if the child lives in the father, are boys conditioned accordingly that a male’s role is to earn money and not much else? Are such boys more or less likely to exhibit sexist behaviors, because the female gender role isn’t whitewashed by the presence of a ‘stable’ marriage. Is the variance in beliefs of boys or girls in such environments larger or does it gravitate towards pro-male or pro-female depending on the custodial parent etc.? What questions/variables could be included to ‘typify’ the type of divorce and the beliefs of the children from living with one parent or another in order to correlate those beliefs with behavioral data? (bullying, dating, child psychology/therapy readouts) Are there protections for such data social experimental data and anonymization protocols? Are the questions to much pressure for children that may be suffering from the divorce of their parents, in a way that makes them defensive or resentful of one of the spouses? What other social context could be provided to the children to alleviate the stress of those questions?

  1. How could future studies reflect socioeconomic segments of society where non-traditional gender roles, divorce rates, or other societal effects (sick family members) might better stratify different racial, socioeconomic, or LGBTQ segments of society?

This is a similar question to the previous. I assume most social scientists would say that the critiques here are reasonable, but beyond the scope or funding provided from a purely academic context. Moreover, funding and interest in the data from political NGOs could bias the study design in unforseeable ways, but might provide more study longevity or better access to clinical/therapeutic data or access to social media data of the children.

  1. How does the ‘self-stereotyping’ metric, a dichotomy designed to reflect purely career oriented males vs. family oriented females restrict the premise of the study?

This is the worst oversight of the study, in my opinion. One more dimension would make the study dataset much more powerful, especially for families involving single mothers or fathers or working class families where the distribution of domestic labor is fairly egalitarian, which seemed to be the thesis of the study in the first place… they wanted to see how children’s beliefs are influenced by both domestic labor distribution and the economic role each partner contributes to the family. It just doesn’t seem that much more complicated to ask ‘do you work or contribute economically to the family’ and ‘do you take the majority of domestic/childcare responsibilities’ using the slider scale, instead of making it a univariate binomial. A supplementary question about self-stereotyping would tell if someone has assumed that role in addition to their actual role with the above that will always be more nuanced.

  1. How could the Implicit Association Tests be improved or provide more accurate capturing of what the parent currently does vs what they would prefer to be doing?

The IATs seem to be a sound method with literature basis, and would be hard to improve due to Occam’s Razer. While the process itself is inherently sexist… how would that make the spouse less/more honest… it seems like a reasonable technique to use to find provide more nuance than the self-stereotyping data above.

  1. How could Table 2. be revised to present clearer communication of the raw findings of the different genders?

Table 2. has so much amazing data, but the presentation is cryptic. The mean is a mean correlation? Or a mean score for the tests? The numbers in the parentheses? It is startling that the explicit/implicit self-stereotyping metrics are weakly correlated and not significant. Perhaps this signals a weakness in one or both of the metrics. Weak correlations across the diagonal are also somewhat troubling, that even within one metric across both genders, there is some inconsistency? Maybe I’m just reading this wrong. The presentation is lacking.

But more troubling perhaps is the description of the results from the F-tests, correlations, and Cohen’s d. The authors seem to communicate that the bulk of men report twice as many working hours and women report twice as much domestic repsonsibilities, as if that in itself is a reportable statistic. It tells us nothing about how in couples where both parents work, do the children aspire to more or perceive their parents positively…. the first result reported seems to confirm a stereotype instead of digging deep into the data or the methodology. I would have been happier if they interpreted the differences between implicit/explicit techniques and looked for smaller and more subtle correlations in the data. A clustering approach would have been more useful here than literally asking ‘do men work more outside the home and do women work more inside the home.’ The existence of the stereotype in popular culture and premise for a prospective study seeking egalitarian behavior influencing children makes the question in itself a waste of space in the study. And they didn’t even layer any socioeconomic or demographic data to give this more flavor about how those ‘traditional gender-roles’ vary. They literally tested the stereotype… I just don’t get it. The statement that ‘women self-stereotype more strongly than men’ was absolutely all that was needed to say the same things. All of those paragraphs could have been supplemental at best, were not used in the abstract, and distracted me from the interesting premise of the study. I understand the role of science is not to ‘feel good’ but from the perspective of narrative… it distracts from the views and goals of the researchers in looking for evidence of egalitarian behavior positively influencing the children.


The implicit gender role metrics didn’t seem to be effective metrics. How could these be improved?

I was a little bit confused by the contrasting statements under Primary analyses.

  1. Fathers’ explicit gender role beliefs were not predictive of childrens’ beliefs
  2. Fathers’ explicit self-stereotyping made the magnitude of childrens’ beliefs stronger.

I interpret this in two ways: childrens’ beliefs that a male stereotyping role is positive could be stronger in households where the child perceives the family as strong or childrens’ beliefs that a male stereotyping role is negative could be stronger in households where the child perceives the family as weaker because of the stereotyping.

A child’s gender and mother’s explicit gender-role beliefs were predictive of the child’s gender role beliefs. This statement really needed some expansion and interpretation. If a child’s mother believes in a caregiver stereotype, then what outcomes of the child belief metrics were predicted?

Interestingly, Figure 1. retains some ambiguity about the dependent variable of childrens’ tendencies to self-stereotype.. it doesn’t explain if merely the magnitude of self-stereotyping is stronger or whether the stereotyping is congruent or discongruent with ‘traditional’ or even parental gender beliefs, even though the caption and the test does explain this clearly.

In Figure 5., the stronger the fathers’ domestic contributions was, the more their daughters chose career aspirations discongruent with their gender’s stereotypical careers.

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