Boys who grow up with sisters more likely to end up Republican, and sexist

Boys who grow up with sisters are more likely to end up Republican, according to a paper published in the Journal of Politics (Word document), and reported on by PEW.

The paper, by Andrew Healy and Neil Malhotr, also says that boys with sisters end up doing less “female-stereotyped” housework as children and adults.

And that the boys end up having more “conservative attitudes with respect to gender roles.”

Girl with hay, via Shutterstock

Girl with hay, via Shutterstock

For example, the study found that, “compared to men with all brothers, men with all sisters were 3.9 percentage points more likely to agree with the statement that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’.”

The paper did not find a similar impact on girls who grew up with brothers, however.  From the paper:

[B]oys with sisters are substantially less likely to have performed female-stereotyped household tasks during childhood than boys with brothers. For girls, sibling gender has no effect on chore assignment. We also utilize the PSP data to show that men who grew up with sisters continue to perform fewer household chores even in middle age, suggesting the persistent effect of childhood experiences.

The big difference in chores between boys and girl?  Doing the dishes.  Boys were less likely to be asked to do the dishes if they had sisters.

Kidds baking via Shutterstock

Kidds baking via Shutterstock

It’s funny, because I grew up with sisters, but I still enjoyed cooking from an early age.  Then again, who got to mow the lawn when we were kids?  My brother and me.  I’m pretty sure the girls never had to.  And that was definitely gender stereotyped.

My sisters also never had to stain the fence (that was a joy from which I’ll never recover).  But boy did I get to do the dishes.

Now, it should be noted that the study examined data from 1965 to 1997.  So it would be interesting to see if attitudes have changed significantly in the past 16 years to the point where parents are more even-handed in the chores they dole out to the kids.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • legit

    liberal media writings stories that groups republicans and sexists more likely to get punched in the face

  • phein39

    Only children don’t have sisters. Smaller families are statistically more likely to have no daughters than larger families are.
    Liberals are more likely to have one-child families, or smaller families, than conservatives. [I don't know if this is actually true, but it was a truism in my youth that the larger families were rural farm families, or, like ours, Catholic.]
    Ergo, conservatives are more likely to have sons with sisters than liberals.
    Did the study control for distribution of family size across other factors?

  • http://buddybest.tripod.com/index.html BuddyNovinski

    Well, I guess I broke the mold again. My ex-sister did not influence me, in fact, I used to do my own things as the first born. I even rooted for Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs in 1973! I’ve been living alone since 2008, so I do all the chores around the house. I also keep abreast of politics, and I have vote for a Republican (his opponent was pro-strife) once since I received my Penn State MBA in May 1984, and I vote every year, often twice (primaries and elections).
    It was my ex-sister who aggressively plodded my demented mother to change her will, then she took me to court to steal the rest. She signed the divorce papers this year after a three-year battle she lost.
    I treat everyone the same. Only those who choose to be stupid bother me, especially when it’s to my detriment. They are mostly job interviewers.

  • RockheadedMama

    Yes, the study needs updating. I was born in 1950 and had 3 younger brothers. My parents were young, Southern liberal Democrats. My youngest brother is schizophrenic and not given to politics and is a typical youngest child who is always looking for someone to do it for him. The brother right after me, died of liver disease a few years ago. He tended to be bigoted and racist in his speech and political rants, but, I noticed was never bigoted or racist in his lifestyle – he had friends of all races and treated them all well, and, although he did treat his stripper “girlfriends” as children that needed caring for, he expected them to cook, clean, etc. for him. The remaining brother is a racist, bigoted Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh aficionado attorney. He certainly does no household duties and was expert at avoiding them as a child – even those “male” duties like mowing the lawn. (I mowed more than he did.) My father and mother both thought a girl was supposed to do all household chores, sew her own clothes, cook, etc. ALL extracurricular activities were for my brothers, as, again, my parents were “old Southern” and thought it unseemly for a girl to go out much or to participate in “mixed” groups.

    I raised 4 children by myself, 2 boys, 2 girls. I expected each child to pull their own weight and, in hindsight, probably expected too much. However, my children all are “workers”. It is both my grown sons who do the ironing in their families and the cooking. One son does most of the cleaning in his family, and the other son likes to go behind his wife and clean it “the right way” behind her and when she isn’t home. (yes, I was a perfectionist, a disease I’ve since mostly cured.) My 2 daughters cook and clean, but both have husbands that also do traditionally female jobs — one SIL does most of the child care and running and the other SIL does cook, clean, and some child care (the kids are still quite young and this SIL is still doing his medical residency.)

    So, I would be very interested in what the study finds for families established after 1997 (the year my eldest daughter married to 2006, the year my twins married), since, in my own family things are 180 degrees different.

  • bucadonebuvi

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    Rush fans are getting fewer. Not
    long ago while at a Rotary Club luncheon, some guy at my table began
    quoting Rush and saying how he agreed with him. He was hooted down by
    the other seven guys at the table. At the June luncheon, the guy not
    only didn’t mention Rush but said nice things about Obama.

  • tsuki

    I don’t have a problem and use carrots in multiple recipes. But everyone has their quirks. :)

  • emjayay

    All families are pretty wierd. Some are wierder than others.

  • emjayay

    Obviously even more so in the days when more women were what is now known as “stay at home mothers”. Back in the day you didn’t need a term for them.

  • emjayay

    Cooking carrots liberates some vitamins, or something.

  • tsuki

    I had a brother, nine years younger. The light of my life. “I WANT a baby brother.” He was totally liberal, a feminist who would help with any “woman’s” work as long as he could get in the kitchen and stop anyone from cooking the carrots. (He was convinced that cooked carrots were a Republican perversion.) I think of him everyday. I miss him that much.

    On the other hand, I have a friend who has been in a loving relationship as long as husband and I who has five older sisters and loves them to a heartbeat. He is the only one, other than son who can invade my kitchen, cook a meal or help cook a meal (I am OCD where my kitchen is concerned). He is a total liberal, a feminist without gender hang-ups.

    A fie on studies to define the socialization of our children. Each light is different.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    totally relate

  • http://firefeeder.blogspot.com/ Stratplayer

    My family was an interesting case. While by today’s standards a middle class, educated family with four kids would be considered “large,” we were by no means thought of as a large family in the 1960s when I was growing up. Although my parents were always extremely liberal and progressive, our family somehow defaulted into traditional gender roles when it came to household chores. Nevertheless, my father did most of the grocery shopping and cooking, a practice which I follow in my nuclear family today. My mother was a forceful, hard-driving, independent career woman who wouldn’t be caught dead performing any remotely masculine task at home. We were pretty weird, actually.

  • cole3244

    i think it scares women to realize they are more at fault for the way some men turn out to be sexist jerks then they care to admit, the blame game rears its ugly head.

  • mikeyDe

    I’m a 62-year old, gay socialist atheist in a 37 year relationship. Two older sisters, one twin sister, one younger sister. Both parents conservative Republicans, one Catholic one Christian Scientist. All five siblings liberal if not Democrats.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    High Five Atalex!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “personal reaction to getting “dirty” (with paint, oil, grease, debris, etc.”) Loved IT! As a kid I always loved the outdoors work, which came in handy later when doing summer jobs for the Denver Rio Grande Railroad, where all the above: oil, grease, debris, cresole, splintery telephone poles and more—– heaven. These days I still love rooting around in the garden—- all these traits I shared with my dad as a kid, and they give me great joy as an old man today, if only just remembering..

  • atalex

    Interesting. I had a sister, but she was eight years older than I and we seldom interacted (and when we did, there was hostility on her part towards me — Daddy’s Little Princess had competition from an overachieving little brother). Not only did I not become a conserva-sexist, I am both a feminist and a self-described Socialist (in Mississippi, no less).

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “but said nice things about Obama.” BOOOOO :-)

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “Or credited with advances” That’s where I stand!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Interesting point, especially for Catholic families, who are often very conservative in religious/political matters, but also socially liberal. Throw in a gay kid or two and you have a substantial variable.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    My two younger brothers and my mother were Reagan/Bush neo-liberals, and my dad a Democrat. I was and remain a Marxist influenced socialist, who finally cut the ties to the Democrats after Obozo’s first term.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Your choo choo just went off the track Ms Judy.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    I don’t get why you got slammed with a down arrow. You concept is quite reasonable and I think most probable of a generational mindset—that of the greatest generation and it’s role models.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Same here. Being a gay boy I could do all chores with ease, although I enjoyed outdoor chores best—gardening, weeding, mowing etc…. My dad and I bonded over outdoors activities. I also helped my mom with heavier house work. I have two straight (well, one in the closet forever) brothers. It was much the same with them. I learned early as a kid that competence makes for more work and assignments.

  • PeteWa

    both of my parents assigned chores to all of us kids.
    I have three sisters.

    we all did the same chores, although mowing the lawn generally fell in my lap (my younger sister always wanted to do it, but being nearly four years older, it was a no brainer).
    we all had to do things like chop wood, dishes, laundry, dusting, vacuuming, etc.
    and the way I remember it, those chores were doled out by both parents fairly equally.

  • lynchie

    You bi-partisan family you.

  • cole3244

    mothers have more to do with the mores their children have then fathers if for no other reason then the time they spend with them compared to the fathers, hows that for a break.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I took a look at their regression data and it does seem that there’s been a change over the decades towards more equality.

    But in truth, it’s a rather complex sociological study we’re talking about here, and it’s not as simple as ‘boys with sisters grow up to be conservative GOPers.’ What they’re talking about are the influences and interactions between having parents of one particular era and how they treat their children differently according to gender.

    One detail jumped out at me: The parents themselves are more likely to skew progressive if they have daughters rather than sons. It’s not the fact of the sex of the kid, but rather the perception as to whether that specific child will do well in the world. Have a son, and the old, conservative, patriarchist model gives them the most advantage; have a daughter, and what she needs most to succeed is progressive equality and freedom from male domination.

    My parents were born in the 1940s. Of course they divvied up the household chores according to their perception and training as to what was ‘proper’ for the boys and girls to do — in the 1960s and 70s. By the 80s and 90s, we were probably dealing with 2nd order ‘echo’ effect, where kids like myself had grown up and were beginning to have children of our own (aside: I myself am childless by choice), and so even though many of us had the ideal that boys and girls shouldn’t be treated differently, many of my generation nevertheless fell back on what we remembered as habit.

    As you noted, John, that study ended in ’97. A ton has changed since then. Heck, just look at the shift in support for same-sex marriage equality in less than a decade. Personally, I suspect the greater causative factor involved here will be cultural and generational. The gender of a kid’s siblings is a second-order variable, and it’ll probably take another generation or two before it evens out.

  • slappymagoo

    I don’t think Cole was tying to be a douche. The study was for families starting from 1965 up to 1997. Even now but especially in the 60s and 70s there just weren’t a lot of Mr. Moms out there, not proportionate to households in general. If you were a kid, you probably spent more time with Mom than with Dad, even if you lived in a dual income household, chances are it was expected Mom took care of the kids because Dad’s work was “real work,” and furthermore raising kids was considered “women’s work.”

    I’ll be interested to see how the study breaks down in terms of children’s ages. If a boy had any sisters who were older than he was, I’d bet he’s more inclined to break down housework along gender stereotypes, where if the oldest child in a house was a boy, perhaps he would’ve been more expected to help raise kids, especially if mom worked or the family was big.

  • judybrowni

    Are you kidding me? You really think fathers aren’t the ones who assign boys to mowing the lawn?

    You really think fathers would be assigning their sons to dishwashing, dusting and laundry, if not stopped by that bitch mom?

    Give me a fucking break.

  • cole3244

    sounds like the mothers affect the way the different sexes relate to stereotypes as they raise the children in most cases.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Everyone should take the time to read the study before commenting. It looks like the supporting data aren’t available yet but will be within a month. I imagine their conclusions won’t really hold up because they’re limited to the data they had available — I bet the county you live in contributes more to your political views than your siblings, but don’t see location represented — but the question itself is kind of interesting.

  • GoBlue

    That’s weird. My two brothers are both Reagan Republicans, and my sister and I are Democrats.

  • ArthurH

    A better study could examine what people did while growing up. I’ve often found that kids who did chores for their allowances (and especially those who worked to earn part of their college tuitions) tend to become liberals and progressives when they reach voting age. Those who got their allowances and college tuitions from Dad without any input grow up to be conservative voters. I know that conservatives claim it is the other way around but as Groucho once said, “Who are you going to believe? Me or your own two eyes?”

  • emjayay

    A ray of hope in the hinterlands.

  • emjayay

    “The 60s “hippies” were still be blamed for a lot of problems related to traditional vs. emerging gender issues.” Or credited with advances, which I assume is your opinion. Older Republicans, even actually down at least to the Alito age, are still in my opinion fighting the longhaired protester hippies vs. Young pro-establishment Republicans in suits battles from their college years.

  • emjayay

    That’s a really good point, and maybe there are other factors as well. And as John pointed out, the cutoff date is a decade and a half ago. Interesting though, nothing like a bit of social science.
    I grew up back in the sexist days, but my sisters were younger and there was no dishwasher available other than seven year old me and my year older brother. That’s about when I got detailed dish washing training from my German mother and immediately became half of the dinner dishes team. Later on: ironing lessons.

  • lynchie

    A big Amen to that

  • lynchie

    This study totally leaves out the influence of gender bias of the father and mother on how the political leanings of the kids evolved. It totally leaves out the political leanings of the family as well. 3.9 percentage points is not statistically relevant. Pseudoscience which means nothing.

  • Butch1

    This is a questionable study.

  • http://firefeeder.blogspot.com/ Stratplayer

    Having grown up as the only boy with three sisters, who had to mow the lawn, take out the garbage, help my dad fix the cars and clean up the cat shit, and came out as a lifelong flaming liberal, this study does not pass the smell test with me. I wonder if the study was weighted toward larger families, which would increase the likelihood of children of both genders. Such larger families might tend to be more conservative than others and pass on their conservative values to the children..

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    It’s doubtful that the study took everything into consideration. The fact that I’m gay probably affected my thinking. I had to be liberal, because there were many fights ahead of me. I know there are gay conservatives, but I really don”t understand them.

  • http://heimaey.us/ jim morrissey

    It’s certainly not true in my case. I have two older sisters (8 and 10 years), and I’m as liberal as they get. I still don’t do the dishes when I go home – even though I ask to help with chores now. I suppose I could insist…but really, it’s nice to be pampered by my mom and sisters these days. At least I appreciate it now.

  • ArthurH

    Actually, this sounds like Junk Science to me. It doesn’t correspond with anything that I see in my immediate family or my co-workers.

  • ArthurH

    Rush fans are getting fewer. Not long ago while at a Rotary Club luncheon, some guy at my table began quoting Rush and saying how he agreed with him. He was hooted down by the other seven guys at the table. At the June luncheon, the guy not only didn’t mention Rush but said nice things about Obama.

  • UncleBucky

    Or maybe your Rush fan brother finally cemented who you were, and how you reacted socially and politically, eh? :)

    I am glad we are liberals! :P

  • UncleBucky

    John,

    The issue should also address where (‘burbs vs. city, detached house vs. condo, etc.) those being studied lived, what culture they grew up in, and the relative monetary security.

    Clearly, a suburban household with WASP parents cast in the roles of “Father Knows Best” etc., is going to be different than a city condo with Mediterranean, African, Asian, and other non-WASP parents and cast in different roles than the mythic traditional family structure.

    Further, a family with a male authoritarian culture will be different than one with gender roles that are more relaxed or even more adventurous (who cooks, who cleans, who is the principle caregiver, etc.).

    Finally, not just politics, but a family’s philosophy of life and work (what it’s all for, who is deserving and why we care for others) will have an effect on children’s gender roles.

    Basically, our family was not exactly adventurous in terms of diversity. We were still very traditional. On the other hand, my sibling’s conduct a much more relaxed attitude to gender-based work. I think the only determinant I can see is about a child’s body strength, affinity with machines, safety, and personal reaction to getting “dirty” (with paint, oil, grease, debris, etc.)

    And while we think sometimes that the 90s are recent history, they are rapidly receding into the past. The 60s “hippies” were still be blamed for a lot of problems related to traditional vs. emerging gender issues. We were still getting over the failure of the ERA. And racial equality was still in take-off mode (after Reagan-Bush’s holding pattern). Both DOMA and DADT were imposed then.

    I think that the study should be repeated by others who take some of these diverse factors into account and in more recent time frames up to the present. I just can’t ascribe conservatism being a result of having female siblings when growing up. I surely didn’t become a conservative in that environment. My SISTER did! Hah!

  • milli2

    Do girls with brothers grow up to be Democrats? My older brother was (and still is) a die-hard Rush Limbaugh fan when I was growing up. Arguing with him about what Rush said that day turned me into the liberal I am today.

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