Causes and Effects of Gender Stereotypes in a 21st Century Marriage

Alondra Vega
8 min readDec 17, 2016


(Sustained Argument)

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At a young age, we are introduced to the concept of “for girls” and “for boys.” Barbies and the color pink are for girls and Power Rangers and the color blue are for boys. This concept develops into set gender roles that will follow a child through their adulthood and into marriage. The cause of these gender roles creates the marital stereotype of young woman is expected to be a housewife and have kids and the young man is expected to work full-time and provide for his family.

Background of Gender Roles

During WWII, women took up jobs men had and worked in factories. After the war was over, the men came back home to work and women went back to stay at home. In the 1950s, there was a post war economic boom and more jobs became available. Also, once the troops came back home, there was a rise in marriages and a baby boom. More men went to work and more women took care of children. From this era, we get the traditional gender roles of the housewife and working father.

Change in Gender Roles

In the 21st century, we see that these specific gender roles are slowly being substituted for new gender roles, the breadwinning mom and the stay-at-home dad. The breadwinning mom works full-time and provides for the family while the stay-at-home dad cooks, cleans, and watches the kids. Although these gender roles are switched, there is a stereotype forming. The breadwinning mom might be seen as the head of family and the stay-at-home dad might be seen as feminine or sensitive.

The Bigger Issue

Gender role stereotypes are an issue because it creates a false view on the expectations of a husband and wife. A husband can be either a provider or a stay-at-home dad. A wife can be a housewife or a housewife. These gender role stereotypes affect a marriage because it provides a set of rules each spouse has to abide by. The problem of gender role stereotypes begins in the early ages of childhood where children are taught what they should play with, how they should dress, and how they should act.

The causes of gender role stereotypes are implanted in a child’s brain at a young age which, affects the future role in their marriage. However, as we enter the 21st century, gender role stereotypes have changed. Mothers are now the providers of the family and husbands are stay-at-home dads.

Causes of Gender Role Stereotypes

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Childbirth: Pink and Blue

Parents play a key role in the causes of gender roles among their children because they pass on what they were taught when they were younger. By the time a baby is born, they are exposed to gender roles. In Parental Influence on Children’s Socialization to Gender Roles, by Susan D. Witt, she states, “Parents treat sons and daughters differently… as early as 24 hours after childbirth.” (1.) What causes parents to treat sons and daughters differently are dressing the newborn babies in gender specific colors (pink and blue). The colors pink and blue help identify the baby’s gender.

Toys and Chores

Giving children gender-specific toys helps create the gender role stereotype because it implements what each specific gender should be when they grow up. Witt states the type of gendered play activities are, “Doll playing and engaging in housekeeping activities for girls and playing with trucks and engaging in sports activities for boys.” (2.) Housekeeping activities girls participate in influences them to do housekeeping chores around the house, such as laundry and cooking. Boys playing with trucks influences them to do manly jobs around the house, such as mowing the lawn and painting the house. The stereotype between the two genders are: girls housekeep and boys maintain the yard. These stereotypes can be spotted in a marriage.

Effects of Gender Stereotypes

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Gender Stereotypes

The following stereotypes come from the article “Effects of Gender Stereotypes” by Marianne Luke.

Female gender stereotypes include:

quiet, neat, weak, clean, clumsy, submissive, incompetent, and motherly.

Male gender stereotypes include:

Athletic, loud, strong, dominant, and controls emotions.

How the Stereotypes Tie to Marriage

Gender role stereotype of a mother:

  • Neat, clean, and motherly: Mothers are expected to be neat, clean, and caring.
  • Quiet and submissive: A wife must be quiet and submissive towards her husband.
  • Clumsy and incompetent: A wife who doesn’t know how to do tasks depend on her husband to help her.
  • How the stereotype effects women: Women refrain from speaking their minds.

Gender role stereotype of a husband:

  • Athletic and strong: A husband can help in situations for survival by doing heavy lifting. He can help his wife do tasks she can’t do.
  • Loud and dominant: A husband always has a say because he is the man of the house, the provider, and is in charge.
  • Controls emotions: A husband can’t show emotion because he is a role model and can’t be seen as weak.
  • How the stereotype effects men: Restricts the emotion growth of men.

Swapped Gender roles in the 21st Century

Breadwinning Mom

Traditional gender roles have changed over time in the 21st century. New gender roles have changed marriage with the rise of breadwinning moms and stay-at-home dads. Breadwinning moms are moms who work full-time and are the complete opposite of the traditional housewife. According to the article, Who Are the Breadwinning Moms?, author, Annie Finnigan states, “40 percent of U.S. households with kids, women are now the primary breadwinner.” (34.) More moms are becoming the provider than being housewives. Moms are proving for the family because they have high paying jobs. With more moms being the provider, there is a demand for husbands to be stay-at-home dads.

Another reason why moms are the main provider is “the majority (of moms) reported.. They were more ambitious than their husbands, more dedicate their careers or more likely to be promoted.” (35.) Wives who enjoy their job will want to work full time and advance in their careers. Husbands who don’t feel the same dedication as their wives will have to become the stay at home parent while the wife is being the full time provider.

Stay-at-home Dad

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In the article, “Stay-at-Home Fathers: Masculinity, Family, Work, and Gender Stereotypes” authors, David Petroski and Paige Edley, believe “If we do not address the changing demographics and changing gender roles within families, we then run the risk of perpetuating a 1950s mentality.” (1.) The authors warn the reader if we do not acknowledge the new gender roles, society will still have the same mentality from fifty years ago and each gender will not advance. This article focuses in stay-at-home dads, the new gender role in families.

Stay-at-home dads have evolved because of more women entering the workforce and also economic hardships towards the jobs of dads. Stay at home dads believe “Men can be just as effective at taking care of their families as women.” (2.) Stay-at-home dads do the same tasks as stay-at-home moms but have different terms of their care giving. Instead of “mothering” or “fathering” they prefer the term “parenting” because it ends gender differences and shares the work of a mother and father.

Effects of the New Gender Role Stereotypes

Although breadwinning moms work all day, they still have to work at home. Moms who work full-time experience the second shift, being a housewife. Finnigan states, “Breadwinner moms report feeling added stress…the division of labor at home has not shifted to compensate for women working more.” (36.) The added stress is the second shift mothers have to do at home which, is doing chores after a long day at the office. Stay-at-home husbands feel that the work is divided 50–50 however, it is not.

Stay-at-home dads are also having their own problems with their gender stereotype. Stay at home dads struggle with being judged as the primary caregiver of the family because they “are questioned and criticized for taking the role of responsible fathers who take care of their children and keep the family home running smoothly.” (2.) Petroski and Edley feel that stay-at-home dads are being judged for doing taking charge in caregiving. Society sees caregivers as nannies, grandmothers, and mothers which, is why men take care of kids are being judged. Stay at home dad stereotypes include an “incompetent employee or henpecked husband.” (3.) The reason why dads are being stereotyped like this has to do with unemployment and having a wife boss around the husband.

How does this affect marriage?

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Gender roles create a dissatisfaction in a marriage because the couple might not see eye to eye with who is providing and who is staying at home. In “Time Dirt Money: The Effects of Gender, Gender Ideology, and Type of Earner Marriage on Time, Household- Task, and Economic Satisfaction Among Couples with Children” by Robin Baker, Gary Kiger, and Pamela J. Riley, the authors state, “Women’s increased labor-force participation and…marital dissatisfaction has been that many married couples continue to maintain the traditional division of family work.” (164.) Working women are dissatisfied that there is still a traditional division of work between a couple. This means that the woman is witnessing a second shift of work at home after she leaves her work. Her husband has not taken care of the house and expects the wife to clean it. This leaves the working wives exhausted and unsatisfied with their married. This dissatisfaction can lead to a possible divorce.

Call to action: De-Gender

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We’ve seen how gender roles have been engraved in our minds since childhood and how we carry them into adulthood. What if we can de-gender at childhood and prevent stereotypes from forming? We can let girls play with toy trucks and let boys wear tutus. We can encourage our children dream of jobs they would want to have rather than telling them which job is for which gender. If we do this, our children can grow up to be adults who don’t care what is considered to be for girls and for boys. Husbands and wives can have careers they wish to have without being negatively stereotyped.



Alondra Vega

Sophomore at San Francisco State University studying journalism