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Changing Gender Roles and Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland$

Margret Fine-Davis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096969

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096969.001.0001

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Predictors of family status

Predictors of family status

Chapter:
(p.138) 8 Predictors of family status
Source:
Changing Gender Roles and Attitudes to Family Formation in Ireland
Author(s):

Margret Fine-Davis

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719096969.003.0008

Abstract and Keywords

Throughout the study we compared single people with cohabiting and married people and saw that they differed on a range of variables from attitudes to gender roles and family formation, to social policy. However, this did not tell us which variables or characteristics were most important in determining someone’s family status, i.e. if someone were single or in a cohabiting or marital relationship. In order to tease this out we examined a range of variables together to see which ones best predicted family status. These included attitudes to gender roles, to family formation and to having children; people’s values and priorities, including the importance of having a job, children, freedom and independence, etc., as well as characteristics such as autonomy and religiosity. Using stepwise multiple regression, we examined which variables optimally predicted whether one was single, cohabiting or married. Separate comparative analyses were carried out for men and women.

Keywords:   Predictors of family status, Predictors of being single, Predictors of cohabiting, Predictors of being married, Gender differences in predictors of family status

Throughout the study, we have compared single people with cohabiting and married people and have seen that they differ on a range of variables from attitudes to gender roles and family formation, to social policy. However, we don’t know which variables are the most important in determining if someone is single or is in a cohabiting or marital relationship. In order to tease this out we examined a range of variables together to see which ones best predict family status.

Predictors of being single vs. cohabiting or married: comparative analyses for men and women

We began by looking at what best predicted if someone was single versus living with someone in a marital or cohabiting relationship. We entered twenty-eight potential predictor variables into a stepwise multiple regression analysis for men and women separately, on the basis of the hypothesis that different things may be important for men and women in determining their family status. Stepwise multiple regression identifies which predictor variable explains the most variance in the dependent variable, in this case being single vs. being married or cohabiting. It then identifies the variable that explains the next greatest amount of variance and so on. The analysis keeps going until it finds that the increase in Multiple R and R square is no longer significant.

The twenty-eight predictor variables which were entered into the analysis included:

  1. 1. demographic characteristics of age, education, occupational status;

  2. 2. composite scores on the six factors measuring attitudes to gender roles, as presented in Chapter 3;

  3. 3. composite scores on the seven factors measuring attitudes to family formation, as discussed in Chapter 4;

  4. 4. composite scores on the four factors measuring attitudes to having children (Chapter 5);

  5. (p.139) 5. the item ‘The cost of weddings is putting people off getting married’ (Chapter 4);

  6. 6. the importance of four separate areas of life to one’s well-being (job/career, being in a relationship, having a child, freedom and independence; Chapter 6);

  7. 7. the composite score measuring Autonomy;

  8. 8. Religiosity, as measured by frequency of church attendance (Chapter 6).

Table 8.1 Summary of stepwise multiple regression of predictors of being single vs. cohabiting or being married: males only and females only.

Model summary

Gender

Model

 

R

R Square

 

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

Males

7

 

.514(g)

.264

 

.256

.42863

Females

12

 

.577(q)

.333

 

.321

.40362

ANOVA

Gender

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

Males

7

Regression

45.008

7

6.430

34.997

.000(g)

 

 

Residual

125.484

683

.184

 

 

 

 

Total

170.492

690

 

 

 

Females

12

Regression

56.842

12

4.737

29.076

.000(q)

 

 

Residual

114.036

700

.163

 

 

 

 

Total

170.878

712

 

 

 

Predictor variables

Model

 

 

Unstandardised Coefficients

Standardised Coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

Male

(Constant)

.592

.170

 

3.482

.001

 

1. Importance of Being in a Relationship

.131

.012

.380

11.012

.000

 

2. Age

.017

.002

.273

8.243

.000

 

3. Importance of Your Freedom/Independence

−.057

.013

−.158

−4.539

.000

 

4. Factor VI: Ambivalence Towards Being Single

−.038

.014

−.092

−2.711

.007

(p.140)

5. Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

.051

.017

.103

2.995

.003

 

6. Autonomy

−.043

.018

−.086

−2.446

.015

 

7. Factor IV: Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection

.032

.015

.072

2.103

.036

Female

(Constant)

1.185

.163

 

7.262

.000

 

1. Importance of Being in a Relationship

.106

.010

.353

10.391

.000

 

2. Age

.020

.002

.324

9.721

.000

 

3. Importance of Your Freedom/Independence

−.042

.012

−.126

−3.656

.000

 

4. Factor VI: Ambivalence Towards Being Single

−.052

.014

−.127

−3.832

.000

 

5. Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

.044

.016

.091

2.722

.007

 

6. Factor IV: Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection

.035

.014

.084

2.484

.013

 

7. Importance of a Job/Career

−.034

.011

−.118

−3.197

.001

 

8. Factor III: Perceived Negative Aspects of Marriage/Positive Aspects of Cohabitation

−.040

.015

−.093

−2.725

.007

 

9. Factor V: Perceived Difficulty in Finding a Partner

−.029

.012

−.082

−2.493

.013

 

10. Ideal Family Size

.028

.012

.075

2.339

.020

 

11. Factor VI: Belief That Mothers Are Best Nurturers

−.040

.013

−.103

−2.989

.003

 

12. Factor III: Support for Female Financial Independence

−.044

.018

−.083

−2.417

.016

(p.141) The dependent variable examined was dichotomous, with a value of 0 given to single and 1 given to married or cohabiting.

The results of the two separate multiple regressions run for men and women are presented in Table 8.1. Seven of the twenty-eight variables were found to optimally predict the family status of men. This equation had a Multiple R of .514 and an R square of .264, indicating that this solution explained 26.4 per cent of the variance in the dependent variable. This contrasted with an equation of twelve variables which optimally predicted family status of women. The Multiple R for the regression run on the female sample was .577 and the R square was .333, which explained 33.3 per cent of the variance.

A comparison of the significant predictors of family status for men and women shows a great deal of commonality for the first five variables, and then there is divergence. For both men and women, the strongest predictor of being in a cohabiting or marital relationship (as opposed to being single) is the single item, Importance of Being in a Relationship. Those who rate this as very important to their well-being are more likely to be cohabiting or married, and those who rate it as less important are more likely to be single. The second strongest predictor for both men and women is age, with older people being more likely to be cohabiting or married and younger people being more likely to be single. The third strongest predictor for both men and women was the single item, Importance of Freedom and Independence to their well-being. Those putting a high priority on this were more likely to be single, and those putting a lower priority tended to be cohabiting or married. The fourth strongest predictor for both men and women was the composite score, ‘Ambivalence Towards Being Single’. Those high on this factor were more likely to be single, and those low on this factor more likely to be cohabiting or married. ‘Ambivalence Towards Being Single’ included the items ‘People just don’t accept the fact that you can be single, on your own and happy’ and ‘I don’t think anybody chooses to be single and on their own, if they are really honest.’ The fifth strongest predictor for men and women was the composite score measuring ‘Belief in Cohabitation’. Those with a strong belief in cohabitation were more likely to be married or cohabiting than single.

At the sixth predictor, men and women began to diverge. The sixth significant predictor for men was the composite measure of Autonomy. Those men high on need for autonomy (liking one’s own space, one’s own time and being particular about the things one likes) were more likely to be single than cohabiting or married. This indicates that the wish to have time on one’s own and liking to have one’s own space, which are both indicative of the kind individualistic solo culture which is emerging, are key determinants of whether a man will form a cohabiting or marital relationship. It is notable that this variable did not emerge at this stage for women; however, in subsequent analyses it was significant.

(p.142) ‘Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection’, also a composite score, was the seventh and final predictor for men and the sixth significant predictor for women. In both cases, those who held strong beliefs in this regard were more likely to be cohabiting or married rather than single. The results suggest that those with these beliefs seek out the kind of relationship in which they will give and/or receive this kind of support.

The seventh significant predictor of family status for women was the Importance of a Job or Career. Women who rated this as important to their well-being were significantly more likely to be single whereas those who rated it as less important were more likely to be cohabiting or married. The fact that the importance of one’s work is a key determinant of women’s family status shows how women’s increasing participation in the workplace is influencing their personal lives and personal choices. It is most interesting that there is a gender difference on this item. It reveals that for men job or career does not impinge on one’s choice of relationship status, while it does for women. This may very well relate to the fact that women usually have to balance dual roles, and, hence, if a job or career is very important to their well-being, they may be less able to manage both a job and a cohabiting or marital relationship, while men have traditionally been able to manage both since they usually have been able to count on their partner/spouse to take major responsibility for domestic work and childcare (Hochschild 1989; McGinnity and Russell 2007). The remaining predictors for women were: Perceived Negative Aspects of Marriage/Positive Aspects of Cohabitation, Perceived Difficulty in Finding a Partner, ideal family size, Belief that Mothers are Best Nurturers and Support for Female Financial Independence. Single women were more likely to perceive negative aspects of marriage and positive aspects of cohabitation than cohabitating or married women were. It is worth revisiting the items on the factor, Perceived Negative Aspects of Marriage/Positive Aspects of Cohabitation:

  • When a woman gets married she loses part of her identity.

  • Marriage gives people security, but it also traps them into a situation.

  • When a man gets married he loses part of his identity.

  • Cohabiting people are generally happier than married people.

  • Cohabiting is good because you can walk away from it.

If single women are more likely to agree with these items, this suggests that they are fearful if they marry they will lose part of their identity and will feel trapped. They think cohabiting people are generally happier than married people, and, furthermore, they see cohabitation as preferable because you can ‘walk away from it’. This suggests that marriage is not as desirable a goal for single women as we might imagine and cohabitation is actually what they would prefer. If we refer back to the findings in Chapter 4, it will be noted that attitudes towards (p.143) cohabitation were generally more positive overall than attitudes to marriage (with means of about 5.2 vs. 4.4 out of 7), and, indeed, men held more positive attitudes to marriage than women did (p < .001). Women were significantly more likely than men to perceive being single as acceptable (p < .001) though they were also more ambivalent than men about being single (p < .001).

Yet single women were significantly more likely to perceive difficulty in finding a partner than cohabitating or married women were. This is not surprising since the latter two groups already have a partner. However, it is very interesting that difficulty in finding a partner was a significant predictor of family status for women, but not for men. We noted gender differences on this variable in Chapter 4; however, the fact that it is a significant predictor of family status for women now suggests that women’s greater difficulty in finding a partner is one of the main reasons why they are not cohabiting or married. However, given the other attitudes which single women hold, including relatively negative attitudes towards marriage, it is somewhat puzzling that finding a partner should be such an issue. In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that support for female financial independence was associated with being single. This underscores the importance to women of their increased labour force participation and economic independence. The consequence of this is that many are remaining single, sometimes against their own wishes. However, as the data presented above shows, single women’s relatively negative perceptions of marriage and their perceived acceptability of the single state suggest that many are happy to stay as they are – though with some ambivalence. However, the findings also suggest that many single women may want to find a partner but also want to maintain their career and freedom and independence.

Predictors of being single vs. married, single vs. cohabiting and cohabiting vs. married: comparative analyses for men and women

In the analyses described above, we examined the predictors of being single vs. being married or cohabiting together since this comparison tells us first of all what are the determinants of being in a relationship involving living together vs. remaining single. This comparison also acknowledges the fact that cohabitation is increasingly common in this society and shares some similarities with marriage. While marriage and cohabitation differ, they nevertheless are qualitatively different from being single since they involve living together, at least as defined in our study.

We subsequently compared being single with being married, being single with cohabiting and cohabiting with being married to determine if each of these different statuses had different predictors and if so, were there gender differences in these (see Table 8.2 a–f). We found that in all cases there were great similarities and that the results of the subsequent analyses replicated many of (p.144) the findings in the previous more global analysis. However, some different findings emerged in these more specific analyses. Among these was the fact that when cohabitees were compared with married people, Belief in Cohabitation was an important determinant of cohabiting and Belief in Marriage was a strong determinant of being married. This shows that the attitudinal measures developed to tap attitudes to family formation are predictive of behaviour. We also found that frequency of religious attendance was a determinant of marriage rather than cohabitation in the direction of greater religious attendance being associated with marriage. This was particularly so in predicting marriage among men. The importance of having a child was also an important predictor of being married among men, suggesting that perhaps being ready to become a parent may be a key variable predisposing a man to choose to marry. Autonomy was also found to be important for men in the direction of it being associated with being single. While it was not significant for women in the comparison of single vs. cohabiting and married women, it was so in the comparison of single vs. cohabiting women, with single women expressing a greater need for Autonomy. When cohabiting women were compared with married women, the cohabiting women were more likely to support female financial independence than were married women. They were also more likely to perceive difficulty in finding a partner. Married women were more likely to say having a child was important to them.

Summary of key findings

This chapter examined the determinants of family status for men and women. By examining a wide range of demographic and attitudinal variables, it was possible to see which factors most strongly predicted whether a man or a woman would be single, cohabiting or married. It was found that the five most important factors that determined whether a person was single or in a cohabiting or marital relationship were the same for men and women. The most significant predictors of being in a cohabiting or marital relationship were

  1. 1. the importance of being in a relationship to one’s well-being;

  2. 2. being older;

  3. 3. placing a lower importance on one’s freedom and independence;

  4. 4. having a low ambivalence towards being single;

  5. 5. tending to believe in cohabitation.

For men, the sixth most significant predictor was Autonomy. Those men high on need for Autonomy (liking one’s own space, one’s own time and being particular about the things one likes) were more likely to be single, whereas cohabiting and married men had a lesser need for Autonomy. Belief in Traditional (p.145)

Table 8.2 Multiple regression analyses: predictors of family status – single vs. married, single vs. cohabiting and cohabiting vs. married for males only and females only.

a. Dependent variable: single vs. married: males only

Model summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

9

600

.360

.349

.400

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

9

Regression

47.496

9

5.277

32.991

.000

 

Residual

84.460

528

.160

 

 

 

Total

131.955

537

 

 

 

Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

9

(Constant)

.465

.152

 

3.062

.002

 

Importance of Being in a Relationship

.136

.013

.411

10.341

.000

 

Age

.020

.002

.329

9.389

.000

 

Importance of Your Freedom/Independence

−.048

.013

−.139

−3.586

.000

 

Factor VI: Ambivalence Towards Being Single

−.056

.015

−.138

−3.776

.000

 

Factor IV: Belief That Men Want Children as Much as Women Do

.027

.011

.087

2.347

.019

 

Factor I: Belief in Marriage

.038

.016

.088

2.297

.022

 

Importance of a Job/Career

−.034

.013

−.105

−2.640

.009

 

Factor V: Perceived Male Reluctance to Share Housework

−.052

.018

−.124

−2.971

.003

 

Factor I: Perceived Threat of Women’s Career Advancement

.036

.016

.095

2.265

.024

(p.146) b. Dependent variable: single vs. married: females only

Model Summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

12

.673

.453

.441

.374

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

12

Regression

63.583

12

5.299

37.826

000

 

Residual

76.901

549

.140

 

 

 

Total

140.484

561

 

 

 

Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

12

(Constant)

1.036

.160

 

6.468

.000

 

Importance of Being in a Relationship

.107

.011

.354

10.122

.000

 

Age

.023

.002

.364

10.594

.000

 

Importance of a Job/Career

−.042

.011

−.140

−3.689

.000

 

Factor III: Perceived Negative Aspects of Marriage/Positive Aspects of Cohabitation

−.034

.015

−.077

−2.204

.028

 

Factor I: Belief in Marriage

.059

.015

.142

3.866

.000

 

Importance of Your Freedom/Independence

−.039

.012

−.113

−3.199

.001

 

Factor VI: Belief That Mothers Are Best Nurturers

−.060

.013

−.153

−4.470

.000

 

Factor VI: Ambivalence Towards Being Single

−.050

.014

−.119

−3.484

.001

 

Ideal Number of Children

.032

.013

.080

2.443

.015

 

Factor III: Support for Female Financial Independence

−.051

.019

−.095

−2.697

.007

 

Factor V: Perceived Difficulty in Finding a Partner

−.028

.012

−.080

−2.352

.019

(p.147)  

Factor IV Score: Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection

.031

.015

.075

2.050

.041

c. Dependent variable: single vs. cohabiting: males only

Model Summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

9

.491

.241

.226

.415

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

9

Regression

24.560

9

2.729

15.822

.000

 

Residual

77.440

449

.172

 

 

 

Total

102.000

458

 

 

 

Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

9

(Constant)

.733

.221

 

3.309

.001

 

Importance of Being in a Relationship

.104

.015

.311

7.118

.000

 

Factor I: Belief in Marriage

−.068

.020

−.165

−3.474

.001

 

Importance of Your Freedom/Independence

−.051

.016

−.142

−3.285

.001

 

Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

.072

.024

.141

3.047

.002

 

Age

.009

.002

.159

3.775

.000

 

Autonomy Comp. Score

−.065

.022

−.132

−3.007

.003

 

Factor IV: Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection

.046

.020

.105

2.345

.019

 

How Often Do You Attend Religious Services?

−.034

.016

−.098

−2.202

.028

 

Factor II: Perceived Economic Constraints to Having Children

.041

.019

.094

2.156

.032

(p.148) d. Dependent variable: single vs. cohabiting: females only

Model Summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

7

.455

.207

.194

.428

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

7

Regression

20.424

7

2.918

15.940

.000

 

Residual

78.160

427

.183

 

 

 

Total

98.584

434

 

 

 

Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

7

(Constant)

.942

.204

 

4.610

.000

 

Importance of Being in a Relationship

.088

.014

.299

6.313

.000

 

Age

.013

.003

.221

4.939

.000

 

Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

.124

.023

.246

5.276

.000

 

Autonomy Comp. Score

−.058

.023

−.114

−2.488

.013

 

Factor IV: Perceived Gender Difference in Being Single

−.047

.017

−.128

−2.823

.005

 

Importance of a Job/Career

−.049

.014

−.163

−3.472

.001

 

Factor VI: Ambivalence Towards Being Single

−.046

.018

−.114

−2.514

.012

e. Dependent variable: cohabiting vs. married: males only

Model Summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

8

.552

.305

.290

.413

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

8

Regression

28.096

8

3.512

20.600

.000

 

Residual

64.102

376

.170

 

 

 

Total

92.197

384

 

 

 

(p.149) Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

8

(Constant)

1.101

.251

 

4.390

.000

 

Factor I: Belief in Marriage

.135

.021

.337

6.487

.000

 

Age

.014

.003

.197

4.471

.000

 

Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

−.067

.023

−.142

−2.870

.004

 

Factor V: Perceived Male Reluctance to Share Housework

−.041

.018

−.102

−2.292

.022

 

Importance of Having a Child/Children

.050

.014

.162

3.455

.001

 

Factor IV: Belief in Traditional Male Support and Protection

−.060

.021

−.135

−2.847

.005

 

How Often Do You Attend Religious Services?

.043

.017

.129

2.566

.011

 

Importance of a Job/Career

−.037

.016

−.111

−2.400

.017

f. Dependent variable: cohabiting vs. married: females only

Model Summary

Model

R

R Square

Adjusted R Square

Standard error of the estimate

9

.529

.280

.265

.410

ANOVA

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig.

9

Regression

27.409

9

3.045

18.115

.000

 

Residual

70.442

419

.168

 

 

 

Total

97.851

428

 

 

 

Coefficients

Model

 

Unstandardised coefficients

Standardised coefficients

t

Sig.

 

 

B

Standard error

Beta

 

 

9

(Constant)

1.418

.211

 

6.719

.000

 

Factor I: Belief in Marriage

.155

.017

.410

9.022

.000

 

Age

.013

.003

.202

4.629

.000

(p.150)  

Factor III: Support for Female Financial Independence

−.056

.024

−.109

−2.382

.018

 

Factor VI: Belief That Mothers Are Best Nurturers

−.045

.017

−.119

−2.585

.010

 

Factor II: Belief in Cohabitation

−.069

.021

−.148

−3.363

.001

 

Importance of Having a Child/Children

.042

.012

.149

3.473

.001

 

Importance of a Job/Career

−.030

.012

−.110

−2.451

.015

 

Factor I: Belief in Necessity of Having Children for Fulfilment

−.037

.016

−.106

−2.278

.023

 

Factor V: Perceived Difficulty in Finding a Partner

−.032

.015

−.092

−2.096

.037

Male Support and Protection was the seventh and final predictor for men and the sixth significant predictor for women. Those who believed more strongly in male support and protection of women were more likely to be cohabiting and married rather than single. For women, other significant factors included the importance attached to having a job or career. Those who rated this as important to their well-being were significantly more likely to be single, and those who rated it as less important were more likely to be cohabiting or married. This finding reveals how women’s increasing participation in the workplace is influencing their personal lives and personal choices. Single women were also more likely to perceive negative consequences of marriage and positive aspects of cohabitation and were more likely to perceive difficulty in finding a partner than cohabitating or married women. One of the more interesting findings is that support for female financial independence was associated with being single for women. This further demonstrates the importance to single women of their increased labour force participation and economic independence and shows that financial independence is somewhat less important for cohabiting and married women.

When cohabitees were compared with married people, belief in cohabitation was an important determinant of cohabiting, and belief in marriage was a strong determinant of being married. More frequent attendance at religious services was a determinant of marriage rather than cohabitation. The importance (p.151) of having a child was also an important predictor of being married among men. In a comparison of single versus cohabiting women, autonomy was found to differentiate between the two, with single women expressing a greater need for autonomy. When cohabiting women were compared with married women, the cohabiting women were more likely to support female financial independence, while the married women were more likely to say having a child was important to them. The findings thus illustrate that the family status of women seems to constitute a continuum, with single women holding the least traditional values in the sense of need for autonomy, with cohabiting women occupying a middle position, being somewhat less autonomous but still supporting female financial independence, and with married women holding the most traditional views, including placing a high importance on being a mother.