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Gender role attitudes and their psychological effects on Chinese youth.

In China, traditional Confucian thought prescribes a much lower status for women than for men, suggesting that women should always be subordinate to men--obeying fathers when young, husbands when married, and adult sons when widowed (Shu, 2004). After the People's Republic of China was established, three laws--the Electoral Act (1953), the Constitution (1954), and the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Women's Rights and Interests (1992)--guaranteed women the same rights as men to vote and contest elections, work and get equal pay for equal work, and obtain education. Considering this background, it is appropriate that gender role attitudes are distinguished as traditional and nontraditional in China. Traditional gender role attitudes are associated with a belief in the superiority of men over women and consequently greater gender-based social discrimination, whereas nontraditional gender role attitudes are associated with egalitarianism, suggesting that both sexes are largely equal (Yang, Li, & Zhu, 2014).

Although the Communist Party has consistently promoted women's equality and enormous progress has been made toward empowering women, especially in urban areas (W. Liu, 2010), economic resource allocation policies in rural areas have usually remained androcentric. In rural areas, the patrilineal inheritance system (in which an individual's family membership is derived from and recorded through the father's lineage) and patrilocality (which instructs a married couple to reside either with or near the husband's parents) have aggravated gender inequality (Li, 2009). Married women are usually called chujianv, which means daughters who leave their original family to get married, and the proverb that a "married-off daughter is like poured-out water" remains prevalent in rural areas. According to Tang and Luo (2014), who conducted an investigation in rural areas from Gansu Province, married women's status lags far behind the national average level, men have pervasive power in families, and women do more domestic work. Further, Wen (2016) conducted research in the rural areas of Shanxi Province and showed that rural women have no right of inheritance. These differences imply that rural and urban areas vary greatly as living environments for gender equality. Therefore, I explored whether gender role attitudes differ between urban and rural residents, and whether they withstand migration to areas with predominantly different attitudes. Further, I explored how these people fare during this migration.

Literature Review and Development of Hypotheses

Theoretical explanations of gender role attitudes have their roots in either interest- or exposure-based approaches (Bolzendahl & Myers, 2004). According to interest-based approaches, support for gender role equality is premised on an expectation of profit from such equality; this approach is further validated by the consistently found research results that in many countries, including China, women tend to hold more egalitarian gender role attitudes than men do (A. Liu & Tong, 2014; Qiu, 2015; R. Wang, 2011; Zhang, 2006).

Exposure-based approaches argue that individuals develop or change their attitudes toward feminist issues when they encounter ideas and situations that resonate with feminist ideals. Due to the contrasting backgrounds in urban and rural China, these environments are important exposure situations that might influence gender role attitudes and have an interaction effect with gender. First, in China residents are labeled as rural or urban based on the housing registration system. Researchers have found that urban housing registered residents are more likely to have egalitarian attitudes, regardless of gender. However, only among urban residents have women been found to have significantly more egalitarian gender role attitudes than men; there has been no significant difference found between genders among rural residents, who exhibit equally low egalitarian attitudes (Feng & Xiao, 2014; Yang et al., 2014). Second, to unearth the impact of each on gender role attitudes, instead of categorizing people as rural or urban based on their housing registration information, other researchers explored the attitudes of people who had both rural and urban experiences. Tu and Liao (2005) found that farmers and manual workers from coastal China with urban living experiences reported more egalitarian attitudes compared to those without urban living experiences, regardless of their gender. In studies targeting undergraduates' gender role attitudes, researchers have found that, on average, male students (L. Wang, 2016) or students of both genders (R. Wang, 2011) from rural areas have more traditional gender role attitudes. Workforce participation, education, and early life socialization experiences are usually tied to greater support for gender equality (Bolzendahl & Myers, 2004). Urban environments have more prevalent female workforce participation, and young people born and raised in urban areas are more likely to have a working mother or one with higher education; this might have an important influence on their early socialization. Therefore, urban experience seems to contribute to people's gender role attitudes transitioning to more egalitarian attitudes, and rural experience to traditional attitudes, with only slight, occasional variations based on gender.

Gender role attitudes have also been perceived to be related to psychological well-being. In one study in the Netherlands it was found that more traditional gender role attitudes are associated with poorer well-being among men and women (van de Vijver, 2007). Buchanan and Selmon (2008) studied differences between the gender role attitudes of undergraduates from an American university and found that sex role liberalism is positively related to self-efficacy for all respondents except white males. Sweeting, Bhaskar, Benzeval, Popham, and Hunt (2014), who used British Household Panel Survey data for 1991 and 2007, discovered that psychological distress is higher among those with more traditional gender role attitudes, particularly men. In another British study it was found that more traditional gender role attitudes are positively associated with suicidal thoughts in early and late middle-aged cohorts (Hunt, Sweeting, Keoghan, & Platt, 2006). Notably, the aforementioned positive relationship between traditional gender role attitudes and worse psychological well-being has been found in Europe and the United States, where gender equality is widely accepted; however, the role identity of women could be in conflict with certain nontraditional roles (e.g., participating in the labor market), resulting in lower mean levels of subjective well-being for women in cultures wherein gender inequalities are accepted (Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001; Tesch-Romer, Motel-Klingebiel, & Tomasik, 2008). Considering that the rural--urban background in China is a crucial cultural background variable, it is reasonable to assume that there would be significant relationships between rural--urban background, gender role attitude, and psychological well-being.

On the basis of the above discussion, I proposed that the rural--urban experience would be critical in cultivating gender role attitudes; moreover, psychological well-being might be influenced by the interaction effect of gender role attitudes and living environment. Focusing on undergraduates now living in urban areas, I explored the variance in different gender role attitudes of undergraduates according to the following two hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Rural background experience will be related to more traditional gender role attitudes.

Hypothesis 2: More traditional gender role attitudes will be related to a lower well-being index score, because undergraduates mainly live in urban areas now where more egalitarian gender role attitudes are widely accepted.

Method

Participants and Procedure

This study was conducted at a university in Henan Province, China, and received approval from the university's ethics board. First-year students attending a psychology class voluntarily participated and received one point as a reward even if they rescinded their participation midsurvey. After eliminating cases with missing data, 404 students completed the questionnaire. The average age was 18.7 years (SD = 0.97); 144 were men (35.6%) and 260 were women (64.4%); 393 were of Han ethnicity (97.3%), five of a minority ethnicity, and six of unknown ethnicity.

To address the issue of effectively measuring people who were settled in rural or urban areas rather than those who lived in close proximity to downtown with an urban lifestyle but who possessed rural house registration (usually known as "the last village in the city"), participants were asked, "Before the age of 18, how would you describe your living background?" They were given three response choices: rural area, urban--rural fringe area, or urban area; the gender role attitude comparison was only conducted between those from rural and urban areas. There were 146 participants from a rural area (50 men, 96 women), 128 from an urban--rural fringe area (46 men, 82 women), and 130 from an urban area (48 men, 82 women).

Measures

The World Values Survey (WVS) is the instrument of a global research program conducted since 1981. The second wave of this survey was conducted in 1990. Since then, one wave of the survey has been conducted every 5 years, and the Wave 6 questionnaire is currently available on the official website (World Values Survey, 2012). The survey includes ample items, instead of fixed and limited dimensions, to measure people's cultural values from many different life aspects, including items related to gender role attitudes and societal well-being. In this study I used questions from the WVS Wave 6 to identify the relationship between gender role attitudes and psychological well-being (World Values Survey, 2012).

Gender role attitude. I chose all eight gender-related items from the WVS Wave 6 questionnaire as indicators of gender role attitudes. Sample items are "When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women do" and "When a mother works for pay, the children suffer." Respondents use a 5-point Likert scale to rate items from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree. Because they were not summarized as one variable, no Cronbach's [alpha] was reported here.

Psychological adaptation. I used three items from the WVS Wave 6 questionnaire related to psychological well-being as a single-item index, representing one variable each: Item 1, "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy or not at all happy?"; Item 2, "All in all, how would you describe your state of health these days from very good to poor?"; and Item 3, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" In the results, these are labeled happiness, subjective health, and life satisfaction, respectively. All items are rated on a 5-point Likert scale, with a higher score indicating a happier mindset, better subjective health, and greater life satisfaction.

Results

Gender Role Attitude Cluster

Table 1 shows the correlation matrix among gender role attitude items. The correlation coefficient ranged from -.16 to .61. The tolerance values and variance inflation factors were also within a reasonable range, which shows there were no multicollinearity problems. An independent samples t test was conducted to compare gender differences on each item, and the results showed that males scored significantly higher than females did on all items except "If a woman earns more money than her husband, it's almost certain to cause problems," for which no significant gender difference was found. On the basis of the overwhelming and consistent gender difference in gender role attitudes found in previous research, this item was not included in further cluster analyses to generate gender role attitude groups, to avoid the possibility of it reflecting constructs other than gender role attitudes, like family tradition or mate preference.

I used the two-step method cluster analysis based on the log-likelihood distance of all items pertaining to gender role attitudes from the WVS (except for the omitted item above). It automatically generated two clusters: a traditional gender role attitude group (n = 139) and a nontraditional gender role attitude group (n = 265). Table 1 shows the item mean scores for the two clusters and each score's importance in predicting strength for the cluster result. Not surprisingly, the traditional group scored significantly lower on the item "Having a job is the best way for a woman to be an independent person" and significantly higher on all other items. According to the importance of predicting strength ranking, the items "On the whole, men make better business executives than women do," "A university education is more important for a boy than a girl," and "On the whole, men make better political leaders than women do," were the top three items with the most important predicting strength, indicating that the respondents' different opinions on these three items are the foundation of different gender role attitudes.

Comparisons of Well-Being Among Different Attitude Groups

Participants in different gender role attitude profiles. Consistent with the significant effects of gender, a significant chi-square test result, [chi square](degrees of freedom [df] = 1) = 56.76, p < .001, adjusted standardized residuals (AR) = 7.5, revealed that more men were categorized in the traditional group and more women in the nontraditional group. No significant difference was found regarding whether rural or urban experience was concurrent with traditional or nontraditional gender role attitudes, [chi square](df = 1) = 1.23, p = .31. However, in consideration of the important effect of gender, a cross-table of gender role attitude groups and living backgrounds under each specific gender and [chi square] test were conducted to explore whether living background had a significant influence on gender role attitudes after controlling for gender. The results show that no significant difference was observed for male students, [chi square](df = 1) = 0.69, p = .43, AR = 0.8, whereas a significant result was observed for female students, [chi square](df = 1) = 6.41, p = .02, AR = 2.5. Female students raised in rural environments were more likely to be included in the traditional group and those raised in urban environments were more likely to be included in the nontraditional group.

Two-way analysis of variance of gender and gender role attitude clusters. Per Table 1 there were nonsignificant differences in the psychological well-being index between genders, and between different gender role attitude groups. However, despite nonsignificant gender differences for happiness, F(df = 1) = 0.00, p = .93, [[eta].sup.2] = 0.024, the results of a two-way analysis of variance indicate that the interaction effect of gender and gender role attitude groups was significant for both subjective health, F(df = 1) = 9.75, p = .002, [[eta].sup.2] = .024, and life satisfaction, F(df = 1) = 4.83, p = .028, [[eta].sup.2] = .012; combining with the descriptive data of each subgroup, traditional gender role attitudes seem to be beneficial for men and harmful for women. Post hoc tests results show that for subjective health, traditional women scored lowest among the four subgroups, significantly lower than traditional men and nontraditional women. Finally, there was one significant difference between the four subgroups for life satisfaction: traditional men reported higher life satisfaction than did traditional women.

Discussion

More female than male students were classified as having a nontraditional gender role attitude, supporting previous research findings that women adopt more liberal gender role attitudes (Qiu, 2015; Zhang, 2006). Further, I found that women from rural areas were more likely to have traditional gender role attitudes than women from urban areas were, whereas no similar tendency was found for male students. My result regarding the relationship between rural experience and traditional gender role attitudes is consistent with findings from earlier research (A. Liu & Tong, 2014; Tu & Liao, 2005; R. Wang, 2011), but different from L. Wang's (2016) results, who found this rural--urban difference mainly in male undergraduates. Different forms of measurement might contribute to this inconsistency in two ways. First, the framing of gender role attitude items in this study might differentiate between women more than it does between men, because there were no items that adopted a male perspective, such as "I would not mind if a woman was hired instead of me/was my superior if she was better qualified than me." Second, the operational definition of gender role attitude in L. Wang's study was more inclusive, placing greater emphasis on family negotiation: "capability and performance" was merely one of five dimensions measured, along with "marriage tradition" and "domestic work allocation." In this study the gender role attitude cluster was mainly based on leadership capability items. Gender role attitude differences between rural and urban men might mainly lie in areas like marriage tradition and domestic work allocation as seen in the investigation results from Tang and Luo (2014) and Wen (2016), rather than in leadership capability evaluation. For example, although urban men may share more domestic work, or argue that men and women should support the elderly equally and have equal inheritance rights (attitudes that diverge from rural traditions), they may also still believe that men are better leaders. Thus, what this reflects is not that rural men are as gender egalitarian as urban men, but that urban men showed the same level of gender inegalitarianism as rural men.

In this study women with traditional gender role attitudes reported worse subjective health and lower life satisfaction. This result is consistent with findings from previous research conducted in the Netherlands (van de Vijver, 2007) and Great Britain (Sweeting et al., 2014). However, significant interaction effects between gender and gender role attitude clusters revealed that, while traditional gender role attitudes did harm women, they were beneficial to men; men with traditional gender role attitudes reported better life satisfaction than did women with traditional gender role attitudes. This result confirms that the relationship between gender role attitudes and psychological well-being is not always consistent but may vary according to different personal characteristics (Soltanpanah, Parks-Stamm, Martiny, & Rudmin, 2017).

The present study has some implications. From the perspective of psychological well-being, more egalitarian gender role attitudes were found to be related to better subjective health and life satisfaction; although the traditional gender role attitude male group scored higher than did the traditional female group, they did not score higher than the nontraditional male group. Women from rural areas might benefit more from befriending women raised in urban areas and taking advantage of college vacations through a part-time job in the city instead of returning to their rural home.

This study has several limitations. I used a convenience rather than a representative sample, which may have influenced the findings. Undergraduates are usually gender egalitarian (Shu, 2004); a more representative sample might have generated sharper gender role attitude differences. Additionally, among those for whom higher education is not an option and those who mostly live in rural areas, there may be different relationships between gender role attitudes and psychological well-being (especially in women). Future researchers should use a more representative sample to help understand the role played by gender role attitudes in determining the well-being of both an individual and a society.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Henan Province Project of Philosophy and Social Science Research (2016CFX023), the Education Department of Henan Province Project of Philosophy and Social Science Research (2019-ZZJH-523), and the Henan University of Economics and Law Undergraduates' Teaching Reform Project, Psychology of Gender Teaching Reform (400368).

References

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Yongxia Gui (1)

(1) Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, Henan University of Economics and Law, People's Republic of China

How to cite: Gui, Y. (2019). Gender role attitudes and their psychological effects on Chinese youth. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 47(5), e7563

CORRESPONDENCE Yongxia Gui, Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, Henan University of Economics and Law, No. 180 Jinshui East Road, Zhengzhou 450046, People's Republic of China. Email: guiyongxia@qq.com

https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.7563
Table 1. Descriptive Results, Correlations, and Importance of Items in
Predicting Strength of the Cluster Results

                                                M (SD)
                   Items                    Male    Female     t

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should     2.40    1.70   5.29 (***)
        have more right to a job than
        women do.                           (1.18)  (1.00)
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than     2.70    2.70   0.12
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.                  (1.14)  (1.071)
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a   3.00    3.50   4.54 (***)
        woman to be an independent person.  (1.18)  (1.11)
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the     2.30    2.10   2.00 (*)
        children suffer.                    (0.99)  (0.96)
Item 5  On the whole, men make better        3.30    2.50   6.40 (***)
        political leaders than women do.    (1.16)  (1.24)
Item 6  A university education is more       2.40    1.60   6.70 (***)
        important for a boy than a girl.    (1.21)  (0.87)
Item 7  On the whole, men make better        2.80    1.90   8.38 (***)
        business executives than women do.  (1.13)  (0.99)
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as         4.30    4.10   2.71 (**)
        fulfilling as working for pay.      (0.91)  (1.16)
Happiness                                    3.80    3.80   0.60
                                            (0.85)  (0.70)
Subjective health                            3.90    3.90   0.28
                                            (0.74)  (0.75)
Life satisfaction                            3.30    3.20   0.85
                                            (1.09)  (1.02)

                                                       M (SD)
                   Items                    Nontraditional Traditional

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should          1.64        2.56
        have more right to a job than
        women do.                                (0.96)      (1.12)
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than           --          --
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a        3.40        3.10
        woman to be an independent person.       (1.14)      (1.18)
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the          1.90        2.70
        children suffer.                         (0.84)      (1.02)
Item 5  On the whole, men make better             2.30        3.80
        political leaders than women do.         (1.12)      (0.88)
Item 6  A university education is more            1.40        2.90
        important for a boy than a girl.         (0.62)      (1.10)
Item 7  On the whole, men make better             1.60        3.50
        business executives than women do.       (0.60)      (0.87)
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as              4.10        4.40
        fulfilling as working for pay.           (1.18)      (0.84)
Happiness                                         3.90        3.70
                                                 (0.68)      (0.88)
Subjective health                                 4.00        3.90
                                                 (0.71)      (0.80)
Life satisfaction                                 3.30        3.30
                                                 (1.02)      (1.09)

                   Items                         t       IPS   Tol.

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should     8.23 (***)  0.19  .83
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than      --          --   .90
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a   2.63 (**)   0.02  .95
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the     7.37 (***)  0.16  .82
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better       14.83 (***)  0.41  .60
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more      14.31 (***)  0.57  .62
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better       22.67 (***)  1.00  .46
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as         3.05 (**)   0.03  .95
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness                                    1.35         --   .67

Subjective health                            1.55         --   .83

Life satisfaction                            0.016        --   .68

                   Items                    VIF    Item 1     Item 2

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should    1.21  1.00
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than    1.11   .11 (*)    1.00
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a  1.05  -.08         .09
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the    1.21   .19 (***)   .21 (***)
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better       1.66   .35 (***)   .23 (***)
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more      1.62   .30 (***)   .11 (*)
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better       2.17   .34 (***)   .15 (**)
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as        1.05   .02        -.02
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness                                   1.49  -.05        -.00

Subjective health                           1.21   .01        -.11 (*)

Life satisfaction                           1.46   .04        -.02

                   Items                    Item 3      Item 4

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a   1.00
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the     -.05       1.00
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better        -.09        .25 (***)
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more       -.08        .25 (***)
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better        -.10        .32 (***)
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as         -.16 (**)  -.07
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness                                    -.02       -.16 (**)

Subjective health                            -.01       -.12 (*)

Life satisfaction                            -.02       -.13 (**)

                   Items                    Item 5      Item 6      Item
                                                                      7

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better       1.00
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more       .36 (***)  1.00
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better        .59 (***)   .61 (***)  1.00
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as         .05         .07         .09
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness                                   -.03        -.01        -.00

Subjective health                           -.05        -.03        -.02

Life satisfaction                            .06        -.02         .02

                   Items                    Item 8  Happiness

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as        1.00
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness                                    .00    1.00

Subjective health                           -.02     .36 (***)

Life satisfaction                            .07     .52 (***)

                   Items                      SH         LS

Item 1  When jobs are scarce, men should
        have more right to a job than
        women do.
Item 2  If a woman earns more money than
        her husband, it's almost certain
        to cause problems.
Item 3  Having a job is the best way for a
        woman to be an independent person.
Item 4  When a mother works for pay, the
        children suffer.
Item 5  On the whole, men make better
        political leaders than women do.
Item 6  A university education is more
        important for a boy than a girl.
Item 7  On the whole, men make better
        business executives than women do.
Item 8  Being a housewife is just as
        fulfilling as working for pay.
Happiness

Subjective health                           1.00

Life satisfaction                            .34 (***)  1.00

Note. IPS = importance of predicting strength, Tol. = tolerance value,
VIF = variance inflation factor, SH = subjective health, LS = life
satisfaction. 1.00 represents the most important, whereas 0.00
indicates the least important.
(*) p < .05, (**) p < .01, (***) p < .001.
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Article Details
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Author:Gui, Yongxia
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 1, 2019
Words:5239
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