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Does transition to parenthood affect gender traits? The Effect of Pregnancy on Perceived Female and Male Traits

Conference contribution
Authors Elin Naurin
Elias Markstedt
Dietlind Stolle
Helen Elden
Verena Sengpiel
Karolina Lindén
Published in NJF Congress 2019 Abstract Book
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Health and Care Sciences
Department of Political Science
Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Language en
Subject categories Other Medical Sciences, Political Science


Background Gendered identities are strengthened during pregnancy and the early phases of parenthood; women feel more female and men more male. Gendered cultural narratives that further emphasize disparities in parenting roles between the sexes embed this transition period. However, it has been argued that it is the social practice of mothering, rather than the bodily or emotional experience or pregnancy and childbirth, which yield a traditionalizing influence on women’s gender ideologies. There is reason to believe that the effects of pregnancy and childbirth is less apparent in contexts with strong welfare state support for the parents and where gender equality is a societal norm. Methods The data was collected from a subset of the large-scale Swedish Citizen Panel consisting of pregnant respondents or respondents who identify themselves as partners to someone who is pregnant. At two time points, these respondents were asked about the extent to which they have “female” and “male traits”. The methodological approach was to explore pregnancy and childbirth as a process and study respondents over time; to compare pregnant women to partners of pregnant women and to compare pregnant women and partners of pregnant women to individuals in the panel who do not become pregnant during the studied period. Data was analyzed by fixed effects panel regression. Findings Data from 2445 respondents was analyzed. No statistical significant changes in perceived gender traits were found in the respondents’ answers between pre-pregnancy and pregnancy; pregnancy and being having an infant <6 months of age; or being a parent of an infant < 6 months of age and having a child > 6 months of age. With the exception that men expressed that they had somewhat less female traits postpartum (-0.3, p<0.05). Conclusion Self-perceptions of gendered traits are mainly stable over pregnancy and early parenthood in this Swedish sample.

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