Journal article Open Access

Adults are expected to take responsibility for their problems, especially when those problems are congruent with traditional gender role expectations

Barry, John A.; Seager, Martin; Liddon, Louise; Holbrook, Jordan; & Morison, Linda

Some research suggests that we attribute responsibility differently for men and women. For example, Reynolds et al. (2019) found women are more easily typecast as victims and men as perpetrators. The present study was a cross-sectional online survey of 408 male and female adults aged 18 to 65, stratified by UK region. Participants saw 14 vignettes depicting a wide variety of scenarios featuring either a male or female character (a man or woman, or a boy or girl), about which participants were asked to make attributions. The gender of the vignette character was randomly assigned for each vignette. There was no overall difference in total internal attribution of responsibility to boys compared to girls (Cohen’s d = –0.01, p < .862). For the vignettes about adults, there was a non-significant overall trend towards total internal attribution being higher for male characters (d = 0.061, p < .065). However, in terms of each vignette separately, participants agreed more strongly that: boys were more responsible for how depressed they feel (p < .013), and men were more responsibility for avoiding workplace accidents (p < .002) and finding work (p < .003). Girls were attributed as more responsible for being physically fit (p < .034), and women attributed as more responsible for making sure their children don’t have a playground accident (p < .034). Findings of this exploratory study are discussed about attributions of responsibility being based on traditional gender role expectations. Implications for social issues, for example, encouraging help-seeking for mental health problems by boys, are discussed.

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