Walking their own path : a life course analysis of baby boom women's marital decisions
Slaughter, Karen M.
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This study sought to examine the influence of birth cohort, structural characteristics of the family, childhood religious teachings, and gender-role modelling on adult gender-role attitudes and the timing of marital decisions. Utilizing the conceptual framework of life course analysis, identity theory, and social learning theory, I examined the effects of these influences for a sample drawn from the historically significant cohort of 75 million baby boomers. Data were taken from survey year 1990 of the General Social Science Survey. The sample consisted of white, baby boom women born between the years 1946 and 1964, who were reared Protestant or Catholic, and who had married at least once (N=145). Path analysis was chosen as the method of analysis because it assesses the causal structure of the variables under study, as well as the computation of indirect effects, and allows inclusion of several paths that are theoretically compelling. Results indicate that for this sample, intracohort effects were lacking. Because no intracohort differences were found, results support the belief that period effects were stronger for this sample. As hypothesized, the strongest predictor for gender-role attitudes of respondents was maternal employment. If a respondent's mother worked out of the home for at least a year after she married, a respondent had more liberal adult gender-role attitudes than a respondent whose mother was a homemaker. Second, the absence of a significant path between mother's employment and respondent's employment suggests that role modelling, at least in the area of employment, did not occur between mothers and daughters in this sample. Not surprisingly, the strongest influence on respondent's marital timing was respondent's own educational level. Additionally, maternal employment had a significant negative influence on her daughter's marital timing, such that if respondent's mother worked out of the home for at least a year after she had married, a respondent was likely to marry earlier than if her mother had not worked out of the home. Lastly, and most disappointingly, cohort effects and gender-role attitudes had no significant influence on respondent's marital timing.