Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mary C. Sengstock





December 2011

Advisor: Dr. Mary Sengstock

Major: Sociology

Degree:Doctor of Philosophy

Gender differences exist in families in all societies and cultures, but expectations are often different from one society/culture to another. Children's gender and its implications for family behavior have recently received a great deal of scholarly attention, especially in western societies; however, the influence of a child's gender on Arab-American family dynamics has not been investigated. Therefore, this study is the first to examine the impact of the gender of the child in selected Arab-American family dynamics. This study specifically investigates the effect of gender ratio, children's gender composition, and parents' gender preferences with regard to children on family size, parental involvement with children, allocating household work to children, and marital quality.

A cross-sectional quantitative research design was employed, using a convenient sample (N=200) of Arab-American parents in families who have at least two children under 18 years old at home and reside in the tri-county area (Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties) of Greater Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan to assess the relationship between gender ratio, gender preference , and gender composition, and selected family dynamics, such as family size, parental involvement with children, allocating household work to children, and marital quality.

Hierarchical linear multiple regression analysis was used to test the research hypotheses and the analysis results indicated that gender preferences and gender composition do predict family size. Specifically, parents with a boy preference are more likely to have larger families than parents with a girl and balanced preferences, or an indifferent preference; and parents with only girls' sibship are more likely to have more children than parents with mixed genders. Nevertheless, parents with only boys' sibships are less likely to have larger families than parents with mixed genders. Age of parents and age at marriage are also significant predictors of family size. In addition, gender ratio and gender composition (mixed genders) of the children significantly predict parental involvement with children. Number of children, fathers' education, average age of children, and fathers' age were also significant predictors of parental involvement with children.

Further, the results showed that household work is somewhat gender-segregated in the Arab-American families who were studied. Girls, overall do more household work than boys; girls do more indoor work than boys while boys do more outdoor than girls; and parents with mixed genders are more likely to display gender stereotype when allocating household chores to children. This sex-linked assignment of children' household work becomes more intense as the child matures (average age of children increases) and when parents hold to more traditional gender ideology attitudes.

Finally, gender composition is a significant predictor of marital quality. Parents with only boys and with mixed genders are more likely to report positive marital quality than parents with only girls. Further, marital quality increases when fathers participate more in family activities. On the other hand, marital quality decreases as the average age of children increases. Additional research is needed to further study the impact of the gender of the child on Arab-American family dynamics.