Ambivalent Sexism and Traditional Patterns of Housework: Why Women Still Perform Most of the Work at Home



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation investigated ambivalent sexism as it relates to the division of household labor within the context of American heterosexual marriages. Women predominantly perform the majority of housework regardless of relevant factors such as work performed outside of the home, time availability, gender ideology, skill, and preference. As such, many researchers have indicated that there is a “gap” between individuals’ gender attitudes and their behaviors, yet previous research continues to examine this topic in the same manner; by assessing traditional forms of sexism only (i.e. hostile sexism). It is not surprising then that previous research often reaches the same conclusion. Thus, it is clear that there is a much needed shift in how researchers measure attitudes regarding women (i.e. sexism) as well as a need to explore the complexities of attiudes. The current research study specifically looks at a more contemporary form of sexism, defined as ambivalent sexism (hostile and benevolent sexism), as it relates to the division of household labor within the context of heterosexual marriage in the United States . As a secondary aim, this dissertation also explored a methodological issue in participant recruitment. Therefore, two samples were recruited for this study. One sample (n = 85) consisted of students, faculty, and staff from a large, southern, conservative university where respondents were largely White, religious, and conservative. The second sample (n = 153) was recruited using Amazon Mechanical Turk and was more diverse in nature compared to the University sample. In total, there were 238 participants. The purpose of using such participants in comparison to a traditional college-based population is to evaluate the quality of MTurk data for use in future social-science research. A survey format served as the method for this study based on ambivalent sexism theory. Data were collected from married individuals assessing ambivalent sexism, sexual conservatism, weekly frequency of household task performance for self and spouse, and demographic information. As predicted, a large number of the participants, just under 50%, were categorized as either ambivalent sexists, hostile sexists, or benevolent sexists. This finding suggests that the sample had higher sexism scores than samples who are tested using traditional measures of sexism, i.e. hostile sexism. Furthermore, hostile sexism predicted spouse housework hours in the full sample. For male respondents, benevolent sexism predicted their spouse’s housework hours. For female respondents, hostile sexism predicted their spouse’s housework hours. Also, several findings suggested that benevolent sexism moderated the effect of hostile sexism on the number of housework hours suggesting that ambivalent sexism does provide researchers with a more complete understanding of the division of household labor. Ambivalent sexism predicted men’s proportion of housework hours. There were a few significant differences between the samples. These differences may have more to do with the conservative nature of the TTU sample than the usefulness of the MTurk sample. These findings suggest that MTurk is a preferred way of collecting data for social science research . The overall results of this research study should aid family studies researchers and professionals to better understand sexism and the division of household labor as they relate to heterosexual couples.



Sexism, Division of household labor, Ambivalent sexism