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Changing Gender Role Expectations in the Family Formation Process Through the Lens of Ambivalence

Intimate Relationships and Social Change

ISBN: 978-1-78714-610-5, eISBN: 978-1-78714-609-9

Publication date: 4 September 2017


This paper aims to explore how couples reflect gender role–related attitudes in their family formation process and whether these processes could be described through the lens of ambivalence. Using qualitative methods, semi-structured interviews with Estonian married and cohabiting couples were conducted (all together 24 interviewees). Analysis revealed themes of ambivalence toward gender roles among married and cohabiting couples. The present study could be classified as exploratory in identifying ambivalence, with open-ended and emergent analysis.

It is known that Estonians have adopted Western values and their family behavior resembles that of Nordic countries. However, our interviews showed that on the level of the individual, gender role–related attitudes in relationships have remained traditional. The reason for this might lie in the rapid change of values that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western lifestyle was seen as an ideal, and copied in behavior before the actual family or gender role values could undergo the transformation needed to support egalitarian family values.

Our study reveals that the societal context of a rapid change in values and norms might create confusion and ambivalence in attitudes. Therefore, a high proportion of cohabiting couples might not be the product of egalitarian gender role–related attitudes but a product of ambivalent couple relations where the couple has not discussed thoroughly the vision and expectations they have for each other and their relationship.



Raid, K. and Kasearu, K. (2017), "Changing Gender Role Expectations in the Family Formation Process Through the Lens of Ambivalence", Intimate Relationships and Social Change (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 11), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 73-93.



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