"To thine own self be true": Impact of gender role and attitude mismatch on new mothers' mental health

Kristin D. Mickelson, Alexandra Chong, Brian Paul Don

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations


The popular and academic literature is rife with research on gender role attitudes; however, few systematic studies exist on the role of concordance between gender role attitudes and role status on mental health. Existing research is mainly sociological in nature and has primarily focused on descriptive analyses of the association between sociodemographic variables and gender role attitudes. For example, studies tend to examine whether individuals in a higher social class (i.e., higher education, income, employment) are more likely to be egalitarian, whereas those in lower social classes are more likely to be traditional. Research has also found that being a parent is closely linked to traditional (as opposed to egalitarian) attitudes. Even though research suggests individuals tend to become more traditional in their gender attitudes after having a child, the dynamics behind role status and gender attitudes during the transition to parenthood are less clear. Based on prior research, we predicted discordance between one's gender attitudes and role status (e.g., stay-at-home versus returning to work) will be related to increased risk for mental health problems, as knowledge of dissonance between one's attitudes and behaviors can lead to decreased well-being. After interviewing women transitioning to parenthood using the Baby T.I.M.E. Study, analyses found that new mothers become more traditional in terms of their childcare attitudes and less egalitarian in their work attitudes. Furthermore, discordance between gender attitudes and role status was related to greater anxiety (but not depression). This chapter discusses in detail the findings and implications of these analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Psychology of Women
Subtitle of host publicationDiverse Perspectives from the Modern World
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781622578993
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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