Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Katie E. Cherry


This study adds to the literature on adult gender role by extending adult gender role orientation beyond increases and/or decreases on gender related personality attributes, in particular increases in self-rated Masculine and Feminine ratings. Gender role orientation was examined along three dimensions: gender-related personality attributes of self, attitudes toward gender role issues, and gender-related attributes of others in social contexts. Life stage experience and social cognitive functioning influences on gender role orientation were examined. The participants were 240 individuals from five life stages: Life stage 1--single, never married; Life stage 2--married individuals with no children; Life stage 3--individuals with children no older than 5 years; Life stage 4--individuals with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 24; and Life stage 5--individuals with at least one child aged 25 or older. All participants completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory, Sex Role Orientation scale, Social Paradigm Belief Inventory, and Attributions of Others in Social Contexts designed specifically for this study. The results indicated that (a) life stage 1 participants attributed more negative or socially undesirable characteristics to targets in instrumental social contexts, relative to later life stage groups; (b) women rated themselves as more interpersonally sensitive than did men; men rated as more instrumental than did women; (c) women had more liberal attitudes toward gender role issues than did men; and (d) social cognitive reasoning did not predict gender role orientation. Theoretical and methodological explanations for these findings, coupled with implications and future directions for research, were discussed.