Title page for ETD etd-0411103-114729

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Reynolds, Rachel Maher
Author's Email Address rreyno5@lsu.edu
URN etd-0411103-114729
Title Times They Are A' Changin': Effects of Social Structural Positions and Network Characteristics on Changes in Gender-Role Attitudes Among Returning Women Students
Degree Master of Arts (M.A.)
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
J. Jill Suitor Committee Chair
Rita Culross Committee Member
Yoshinori Kamo Committee Member
  • non-traditional students
  • employment
  • gender
Date of Defense 2003-03-14
Availability unrestricted
Since the 1960ís men and womenís gender-role attitudes have become increasingly nontraditional. The shift in attitudes has been attributed greatly to changes in womenís educational attainment and labor force participation. This thesis builds upon this line of work by exploring the effects of returning to school on womenís gender-role attitudes. Specifically, I use quantitative and qualitative data collected on 44 married mothers across a ten-year period beginning with their return to school in the early 1980s, focusing on the way in which womenís gender-role attitudes were affected by their increased educational attainment and their post-enrollment labor force experiences. As part of the exploration of the effects of changes in educational attainment, I also explore how educational similarity to members of the womenís social networks affected gender-role attitudes. The combination of quantitative and qualitative data showed women who completed their Bachelorís Degrees were more likely to develop liberal gender-role attitudes than were women who dropped out of school after the initial return. The analysis also revealed that employment experiences affected the womenís gender-role attitudes. In particular, taking nontraditional career paths appeared to result in less traditional attitudes, as did continuous labor force participation, albeit to a lesser extent. Finally, women whose networks were composed primarily of individuals who had not attended college were substantially more likely to retain or develop traditional gender-role attitudes, while highly educated networks had remarkably little influence in moving women toward liberal attitudes. Analysis of the qualitative data revealed that the effects of educational attainment, labor force experiences, and network structure were through both changes in the womenís self-perceptions and adaptations to pressures from both their new and preexisting foci of activity.
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