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Working Moms Now More Socially Acceptable, Says Study

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Research conducted at San Diego State University revealed that the rate at which working mothers are accepted in society now is at an all-time high.

In a study published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, researchers assessed data from almost 600,000 respondents from two surveys taken from 1976 to 2013 involving U.S. adults and 12th graders. The goal of these nationally representative surveys was to gain a better understanding of how attitudes regarding family roles and women's work may have changed in the country since the 1970s.

According to the results, millennials are dramatically more accepting than previous generations at the same age when it come to working mothers, with just 22 percent of 12th-graders believing that a preschooler will suffer if their mother is working in the 2010s. This figure is down from 59 percent during the 1970s and 34 percent from the 1990s.

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor from SDSU and one of the lead authors for the study, said this finding goes against the common notion that millennials are more interested in turning back the clock or that they will be less supportive of working moms because they suffered as children when their own moms worked.

However, not just young people have become more accepting of working mothers, as shown by a similar trend in adults in which 68 percent believed in 1977 that a preschooler will suffer if their mother works, a number that went down to 42 percent in 1998 and further down to 35 percent in 2012.

Kristin Donnelly, an SDSU graduate student and lead researcher for the study, explained that Americans have grown more supportive of both men and women taking on the same roles involving work and caring for a child.

"These results suggest a convergence onto a common gender role for both genders ... flexibly switching between the two without regard for traditionally gendered conceptions of duty," she said.

Twenge adds that their discovery suggests that gender equality is growing and that choices made by both parties are accepted. These are consistent with a culture favoring individualism or a focus more on the self instead of rules set by society.

However, the researchers also reported finding that more and more millennials are adhering to patriarchal views of marriage, with 32 percent thinking in 2010 to 2013 that it's the man's job to work and the woman's to care for the family. Seventeen percent of millennials from the same period also agreed that the husband makes the important decisions in the family.

Photo: Beth Rankin | Flickr

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