Does father absence influence children's gender development? Findings from a general population study of preschool children

Madeleine Stevens, Susan Golombok, Michael Beveridge (2002)

Please note: this is a legacy publication from CPEC (formely PSSRU at LSE).

Parenting Science and Practice 2 1 47-60

Objective. This study aimed to investigate whether preschool children in father-absent families are less gender-typed than their counterparts from father- present homes. Design. Samples of 283 single-mother families, including a subsample of 136 families where the child had no contact with the father, and 6,420 nuclear families were obtained from a longitudinal population study of 14,000 mothers and their children. Gender-role behavior was assessed when the child was 42 months old using the Pre-School Activities Inventory, a reliable and valid instrument designed to discriminate within as well as between the sexes. Results. No difference in parent-reported gender-role behavior was found between father-present and father-absent families for either boys or girls. Conclusions. The findings suggest that the gender-role behavior of preschool children develops typically despite the absence of a live-in father figure.