Changing gender roles and attitudes to family formation in ireland

Margret Fine-Davis
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The last several decades have witnessed major changes in gender roles and family patterns, as well as a falling birth rate in Ireland and the rest of Europe. This book presents the results of the first major study to examine people’s attitudes to family formation and childbearing in Ireland; it also explores the effect of new family forms on well-being. The research was based on an in-depth qualitative study of 48 men and women in the childbearing age group, followed by a survey of a representative sample of 1,404 men and women. The study explored whether changes in gender roles impacted on family formation. The results showed that while women’s progress in the workplace has been welcomed, there is also a perceived threat of women’s advancement, as well as some ambiguity in the male role. Attitudes towards marriage and cohabitation are positive and cohabitation is seen as a step in the progression towards marriage. Attitudes towards being single are also positive, though in some cases ambivalent, but single women, particularly older and better educated ones are finding it more difficult to find a partner and this is impeding family formation on their part. Differences in women’s and men’s biological clocks were found to be important in relation to this, as were the lack of affordable childcare and flexible working arrangements. The findings were discussed in light of the demographic trends of later marriage, decreasing fertility and the increasing proportion of single people in the population.

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