Gender Norms under Socialism and Capitalism: A Historical Examination of Attitudes towards Maternal Employment in the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany
Research on the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the 1980s shows a high level of congruence between conservative social policy deterring mothers from employment and traditional societal gender norms. In contrast, little is known about whether people in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) agreed with the socialist idea of continuous full-time maternal employment. Based on unexploited GDR data from 1984 and a description of contemporary social policy, this study examines attitudes towards maternal employment, whether they were related to individual preferences for work or children, and their congruence with the socialist policy. The same questions are examined for the FRG using data from 1982.
Results for the GDR indicate that one third of respondents rejected the socialist idea of maternal full-time employment, with individual work preferences being decisive for respondents’ assessments. In the FRG, there was a high degree of agreement with the gender norm of maternal non-employment, with this being dependent on individual preferences for children. These findings complement post-reunification evidence on East-West-differences in gender norms and provide insights into attitudes under Eastern European state socialism.
* This article belongs to a special issue on “Demographic Developments in Eastern and Western Europe Before and After the Transformation of Socialist Countries”.
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