A blog post

Books, comments: Children, socialization and gender equality

Posted on the 25 March, 2011 at 10:48 pm Written by in Books, Comments

The gender equality survey in Norway 2007 showed that children growing up in gender-equal homes, where the parents decided things equally, were less exposed to violence and physical punishment, compared to father- or mother-dominated homes.

This is a major new finding, and I regard it as one of the most important findings of my research, stretching over many years from 1980 to today.

The 2007 representative survey data maps adults retrospective experiences, growing up ca 1940-2000, and seems to be a clear and solid data source, for example, reported in a very similar way by men and women. Compared to violence in adult life relationships, also included in the survey, the data on childhood experiences seems more robust, less prone to “mission shift” or normative reinterpretation, although it is retrospective. If bad memory or rescripting due to age was substantial, we would expect disparate reports from different age groups, but instead, that data gives a coherent picture. The age groups tell of gradually reduced violence, like other sources, and also, they have much the same basis for regarding something as violence, as indicated by e g health correlations. For example, it is not the case, in terms of health outcomes, that violence in childhood reported by the young is any less serious than the violence reported by the old part of the sample. A variety of tests point in the same direction, the childhood gender equality and violence reporting is realistic.

Gender equality in the socialization agency, the family, or the parental group, in this study, reduces the chance of violence against children substantially, almost two thirds. In father-dominated homes, 27 percent experienced violence or punishment, in mother-dominated homes 17 percent, in gender-equal homes 10 percent. The main perpetrator, the violent or punishing person, also mapped in the survey, and in father-dominated homes was mainly the father, in mother-dominated homes mainly the mother, in equal homes more balanced but more often the father.

This main pattern was not much affected by gender, age, education, whether the parents were divorced, or mobbing in the socialization environment. Gender equality emerged as  a strong independent factor, regarding violence against children, according to the survey results.

The main result was described in the report, see Holter etc: Gender equality and quality of life, p 239. but it took some time for the message to sink in, and this is a case that deserves better promotion.  Further analyses of the survey results have confirmed the independent character of the gender equality decision-making variable. Its strong effect and similar patterning across other known variables, like social class related variables, family breakup, and social problems (mobbing in childhood environment) is remarkable.

These result are of historical importance.  They should be better tested and established, can they be repeated in Norway, are they international, do they represent a wide trend? If they turn out to be right, through broader testing, they demand a rethinking, or even a paradigm change, in many disciplines.