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Gender Construction of Roles and Social Learning Theory

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 5543 words Published: 7th Sep 2017

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Contextualizing- Gender and Social Background to the Private and Public livelihoods of African women in the Diaspora (Case study -Gothenburg, Sweden).


People in every community are ascribed to gendered attributes that shape and impact their life styles. Darly and Rake (2003) contend that such gendered attributes involve sex relations encompassing resources, social roles and power relations. Hence, the perception and doing of gender is very subjective and much so inferred according to social contexts and history (Gruber and Stefanov, 2002). The implication here is that the significance and consequence of gender construction and the way it is practiced is discrete upon background and contextual factors. The baffle often comes when individuals and groups of people settle on willful or involuntary choices to relocate to new places that have distinctive gender constructions and practices. How are they likely to cope; are their interpretations likely to change and embrace new ones-thereby turning out to be totally transformed? Would their gender norms be inflexibly maintained? Or would people consolidate and get lost between different cultures? Gendered research into migration demonstrates that migrant women (particularly those who originate from the developing world) as a rule experience troubles grappling with their changed gender roles as they settle in other countries (Gavanas, 2010; Sawyer,2008; Deacon, 2009). This is on the account that gender roles in the diaspora tend to differ from those of their original nations. This is especially so in the Western World where these tend to give more autonomy, self-determination and freedom (Deacon, 2009). This study sought to examine and clarify how the gender divisions of roles influence the status and position of a group of African women (living in Gothenburg) inside their families as well as their general participation in the Swedish society. The research was conducted between January to June 2012, as part of the fullfullment for my master study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The main research question was; How does the gender division of roles affect the status and position of a group of African women (living in Gothenburg), within and outside their families? The current report will discuss the analysis outcome of three interviews with African women.

The process of analysis

Analysis can take various approaches including, literal; interpretive; and reflexive (Welsh, 2002; Miles and Huberman,1994). Miles and Huberman (1994) identify three types of activities that make up the analysis process.

First, is data reduction. This refers to “the process of selecting, focusing, simplifying, abstracting and transforming the data that appear in written-up field notes or transcriptions” (Miles and Huberman 1994, p.10). This procedure may likewise be known as data familialisation (Fielding& Lee,1991), indicating a process of condensing and consolidating of the data to make it sensible.

The second activity is data display.This refers to “an organised, compressed assembly of information that permits conclusion drawing and action” (Miles and Huberman 1994, p.11). This includes transforming expanded writings into instantly available, minimal frames of reference so that the researcher can perceive what is occurring and either reach defended determinations or proceed onward to the following phase of investigation.This can als be known as the decriptive (Fielding& Lee,1991) stage of data analysis.

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The final activity of data analysis is conclusion drawing and verification. Drawing conclusions relates to deciding on the actual meaning of phenomenon, in otherwards data is explained. On the other hand, verification means “testing meaning for their plausibility, their sturdiness, and their confirmability” (Miles and Huberman 1994, p.11). These procedures happen persistently and iteratively and feed into each other, for the entire duration of the research.

Advantages and disadvantages of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS).

There are different software packages ranging from text retrievers, code and retrieve packages as well as theory building software (Gibbs, Friese and Mungabeira, 2002; Fielding& Lee,1991). This section discusses the importance and shortcomings of using CAQDAS sduch as Nvivo.

Utilizing CAQDAS can save time and energy of a qualitative researcher. This is mainly because CAQDAS can help with the mechanical aspects of qualitative data analysis which include marking up the highlighted text with the codes, generating reports, searching the text for key terms (Gibbs, Friese and Mungabeira, 2002) which would be time consuming, inconvenient and fatiguing (Lee and Fielding, 1995) for the researcher. Besides, this also decreases the mistakes which could lead to some aspects of data being ignored by the researcher perhaps due to some bias or omission. Despite this though, the art and interpretation depends on the individual researcher. As Gibbs, Friese and Mungabeira (2002) have argued that conceptual aspects of the analysis such as reading the text, interpreting it, creating coding schemes and identifying useful searches and reports all depend on human art ( p.4).

CAQDAS can enable teamwork and exchange of ideas throughout the whole analysis process which can thus reduce on delays and also help with member checking as ideas develop. The research team does so by uploading all filed notes into the software and these may be easily shared among them electronically (Lee and Fielding, 1995). The only challenge with this way of working is that attention paid to issue salience or uniqueness of cases and situations may be reduced as teams try to share ideas.

CAQDAS such as NVivo decreases boredom which might be experienced in the repetitive procedure of transcribing and creating codes all through to the report writing stage. This is possible because other than the ordinary style working with just plain texts, these programs allow for incorporation of rich text, audio, videos and any multimedia data (Gibbs, Friese and Mungabeira, 2002) which can make the entire process of analysis interactive and engaging for researchers. The risk associated with this is ambiguity because as researchers attempt to deal with a blend of information, consideration might be moved to videos and the richness of content might be ignored. This may lessen the sort of depth of interpretation which they can give to any of the material. Aside from that, the software is not free, one may likewise require extra training in order to have the capacity to utilize it effectively.

CAQDAS can also help to make the analysis process more effective and transparent more than the manual method. This helps to improve the quality of the research that is produced. Gibbs, Friese and Mungabeira (2002 ) argue that while in quantitative research there can be techniques for checking authenticity, this might be hard for qualitative researchers.The counter contention by Welsh (2002) is that validity and reliability difficulties still exist notwithstanding when the analysis is done using a software, as a result of the fluid and creative routes through which the themes emerge; suggesting that the human analysist is especially vital and cannot be separated from this process. Additionally, the ‘theoretical lens through which the researcher uses to approach the phenomena, the strategies that the researcher uses to collect and construct data and his or her epistemological understandings about what might be relevant in answering the questions are all analytic process and influence data (Thorne 2000, p.68). Hence, the analytic process may not be entirely distinguishable from the actual data produced (Thorne, 2000).

That said, we cannot deny the fact that CAQDAS provides an efficient and smarter way of sorting and organizing data for proper management and analysis; much as it is critical to reflect on how much the software can be able to do. The software is not capable of undertaking the intellectual and conceptual procedures which are necessary for transforming data into useful research (Welsh, 2002; Thorne, 2000; Fielding& Lee,1991).

Process of analysis

First, I uploaded the transcripts into NVivo 11 software. After that, I started developing general codes according to the study goals (Bazeley & Richards,2000). However, as I read the transcripts over and over again, new nodes kept on emerging. With a full list of numerous nodes, I realised that some nodes actually expressed the same idea and could be merged, so I categorised and classified the related nodes, cut and pasted them into the parent nodes and came up with broader and expanded nodes. Bazeley & Richards (2000) assert that codes can are essential for identifying topics, themes or issues and unite the data segments. Categorising the nodes helped me to get rid of the redundant nodes. And actually a few redundant nodes which I had formulated earlier on, have been excluded from the analysis since they could not add up to any thick description of the data. This exercise involved an iterative and reflective process of working back and forth through the transcripts so as to avoid merging nodes that expressed different ideas. I also made descriptions and memos as I coded which helped me to reflect on the nodes afterwards. This was also important in developing a deeper analysis of the data.

Interview transcripts were analyzed through induction following a phenomenological approach. An analytic induction explores patterns and relationships in the data and uses such to generate tentative hypotheses or ideas so as to develop general conclusions or theory.I will borrow a few features from Grounded theory approach advanced by Strauss and Corbin (1990) and Miller (2000). The grounded theory approach allows for continuous and repetitive working with the findings in order to develop themes which can be built into models arising from the data. mechanisms of women towards addressing their health needs. The grounded theory approach was useful to draw comparisons (Thorne, 2000) between married women and the single woman. Thus, much as there are elements of grounded theory within my analytical approach, my research took a more inductive and phenomenological approach. All interview data were be analyzed using a phenomenological approach done in stages as proposed by (Hycner 1985,p.280-293).

Firstly, Interview were transcibed verbatim and literally in the way it was it will be presented by respondents. In addition, all nonverbal and para- linguistic communications (Hycner, 1985) from the interviews were noted so as to draw meaning from them.Secondly, I engaged in bracketing and phenomenological reduction. Bracketing involves suspension of the researcher’s meanings and interpretations and entering into the unique world of the individual who was interviewed while (Hycner 1985). , Keen (1975, p.38 in Hycner 1985) alludes that: ‘The phenomenological reduction is a conscious, effortful, opening of ourselves to the phenomenon as a phenomenon. And since, I already had the transcripts,I read through them with openness to derive meaning.The third stage involves listening to the interview or reading the transcription several times to get a sense of the whole. Hycner 1985 states that as you listen or read, its imporatnt to make memos; which aid in delineating the units of general meaning. This fourth stage is about crystallization and condensation of the what the respondents said leading to a unit of general meaning while referring to the reseacrh question (p.282).This involves paying attention to the actual content of the findings while referring to the initial research question to see if the collected data is relevant and at this point irrelevant findings might be excluded from the analysis.

Next is to have independent judges to verify the units of relevant meaning to see if the findings are authentic, then redundancies are taken out, depending on both the literal content and looking at the number of times and the way meanings were mentioned.

The other step is clustering units of relevant meaning. This is an iterative process of working through the units of meaning through examining their essence. This also depends on the context under which a unit was mentioned. Next is to determine central themes from these clusters of meaning. This also involves interrogating the clusters as well as working through the segments of the transcript. After this, next a summary of individual interviews is done while trying to incorporate the themes, this also gives a sense of the whole. After this, Hycner recommends to do validity check with our interviewees to see if what we have actually represents what they tried to bring forward. In my research this process will be done retrospectively, that is, immediately after interviewing.

After this then, themes are modified and then general and unique themes are identified for all the interviews. This step looks out for common themes in all the interviews as well as individual variations or uniqueness and these clustered under general themes. This step requires patience so as not to merge themes that do not match or are somewhat unique without which the significance of some themes may be lost.

Finally, is the contextualization of themes. This step requires that all the general and unique themes from the rigorous process are placed back into the initial contexts from which they developed so as to get a deeper understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. As such the analysis is presented with evidence from the actual words of the interviewees.

Hycner (1985) alludes that the process takes fourteen steps but in this research, some of these were done simultaneously as the research progressed. The phenomenological approach is not without limitations. For example, phenomenological analysis is associated with of the following challenges;

Phenomenological analysis may be very exhausting if you are dealing with large amounts of data and since it is suitable for few cases, the data may be difficult to generalise. This holds water but does not eliminate the value of the findings since these usually represent the experience of individuals which is itself unique and informative (Hycner 1985).

Secondly, there is the issue of randonmness and the subjective influence of the resaercher. The citisim is that respondents are selected because of who they are, or depending on their experienece with the phenomena. As result there might be subjective influence in both interviewing and in analysing data. The women were chosen purposefully to provide their experince, but the analysis has undergone a thoruogh process.


Gender and gender role formation

Gender refers to the “socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women” (WHO, 2017). Gender categorization portrays cultural values and norms and is therefore an outcome of extensive interactions between individual socialization processes inside families and broader social-cultural order (Becker-Schmidt 1993, cited in Gruber and Stefanov, 2002). Buckingham-Hatfield (2000, p. 67) contends that the gender identity that individuals acquire over time infers two types of connections, “that between the two genders and that between gender and society” Gender roles thus allude to the degree to which standards and practices are social and patterned for women and men (Darly and Rake, 2003). The data shows that women mainly predominate in the traditional gender roles like cooking, taking care of children, doing laundry work and making their homes neat.

“I don’t even relax in the evening, I come back directly in the kitchen, starts cooking and then we eat around six o’clock then we see homework and what happened at school and then you prepare them for bed” (Married woman)

“Womanly in my view, I mean taking care of the home, having meals done and checking on the children’s’ work and following up to see that their home works are done, (Single woman)

In addition, all the women indicated that they are bread winners. Contrastingly, the married women work mainly to supplement their husband’s income but not necessarily to enhance their positions. As such, the married women take on part time work so that they can balance that with home assignments while the single woman labours to sustain her family. Kunovich and Kunovich (2008) contrasts that married women have less egalitarian attitudes toward housework and childcare compared with single women; that even in nations with more noteworthy gender equality (like Sweden) only have more libertarian attitudes toward separate spheres of work, yet not toward housework or childcare. On this account, Gavanas (2010) demonstrates that in European settings, care and household labor have been traditionally viewed as women’s domaincarriedout for free as a labor of love.

Determinants of women’s roles

The Swedish values and laws emerged as some of the factors that determine women’s roles. According to the Swedish Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality (2009), the Swedish gender equality policy is aimed at fighting and changing systems that preserve the sex-based appropriation of power and resources in society; and, guaranteeing that women and men appreciate similar power and chances to shape their own lives. Such impacts however usually stream less to the immigrants henceforth Sweden’s gender equality discourse is dominated by “various leveled classification of the population into ‘Swedes’ and ‘immigrants with representations of gender unequal ‘immigrants’ being eminent(Towns 2002, p.157). Additionally, numerous migrant women are utilized in the informal economy, especially as domestic workers, mind specialists, nurses or entertainers- henceforth, reinforcing conventional gender segregation and inequalities in the labor market (Anja and Andrea 2010, p.48). None the less, Brettell (2008) has put light to the new changes which happen in family and kinship patterns as an outcome of migration and highlighted the feeling of control that women gain as immigrants. To some extent, the women I interviewed have adopted the Swedish values of equality in their homes. This is partially because they are married to Swedish partners who are used to the values of equality and thus, occasionally accept to take on household chores flexibility.

“Yeah that’s something special for Sweden. And also then taking paternity leave, it’s very special for Sweden because also a dad participates” (Married woman)

“he earns more than me and he makes more decisions than me but also being in Sweden and being married to a Swedish person, they are very much about equality” (Married woman)

Further on, women have adopted equality values because of the demands on women. Women have familial roles yet they also have to work outside the home. Metz-Gckel (1993) and Becker-Schmidt and Knapp (1995) contended that the structural significance of gender is attached to the dual role of women in society “from one perspective in the private reproductive sphere controlled by patriarchal power structures and then again in the market – initiated societal sphere under the control of the profit-oriented organization of the productive sphere” (cited in Gruber and Stefanov 2002, p. 3).

“Yeah it’s because I have changed, I have changed. I came to understand that it’s very important to help each other especially in this, this Europe.” (Married woman)

Aside from demands, the women have also been influenced by the Swedish women whom they see as autonomous and independent in the way they live their lives. These relationships have made African women to reflect on their positions within their families.

“Again being here and looking at Swedish women here, the way they are independent, the relationships between a man and a woman” (Married woman)

“Yeah in one way I think, I have friends, I have Swedish friends and you see how people live, and you see them in the homes, how things are done, when I talk to my friends they say I did this, and it can a little bit yeah it can help you out”

(Married woman)

The challenge however is that because of the hierarchical gender relationship, male dominance controls the private and public spheres (Gruber and Stefanov, 2002; LeVine, 1966). Despite that, adopting the Swedish values of equality has empowered the women to be able to discuss their grievances with their husbands.

Norms also determine what women do inside their families and in general society circles. Each of the respondents battled that there are specific obligations which should be for women and others for men. In their view, the light tasks and those which are less stressful like dealing with the little things in the house are feminine. Male duties are those that need skill like fixing bulbs and those that require monetary assets like dealing with bills. This was alluded to irrespective of marital status. For stance, the single woman was content with the freedom she has-being the major decision maker for her children and family yet communicated trouble with taking care of bills.

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“I think I’m comfortable, they are moments when I sit and I think, now I think I need a husband in my life who is going to pay for the rent, I don’t want to pay rent, I mean there are times, when I really have this mind that I need to turn down and also feel like a woman” (Single woman)

“once my mother called and then she asked me where I was and I said ok- Im in the living room watching TV, and your husband? I said he is in the kitchen doing dishes so my mother was very hungry on the phone. ‘What! You are sitting and your husband is in the kitchen doing dishes, I didn’t teach you that’. I was like ok, mama, this is Europe. ‘Yeah its Europe but you are not European” (Married woman)

Social role theory deduces that people occupy positions in social structures – associated with roles that may either be attributed or achieved (Payne, 1997). The model clarifies that the societal division of work produces diffuse gender roles for specific genders and in this way confers broad expectations depending on each gender (Diekman and Schneider, 2010). This sort of development implies that men and women take part in different household assignments to demonstrate and reaffirm their gendered selves as expected of them by others.

Personality also emerged as an imperative component that determines women’s roles and workload inside their families. For example, one woman insinuated the way she appreciates doing the family tasks yet for some, they are perfectionists trusting that they know best what is useful for their families. All these decide the workload of women and additionally whether they are ready to request for support from their partners and friends.

But I sometimes feel that I take too much also and that way Patrick balances me and he tells me I don’t think you need to do this, although you have made a commitment here and there. Its personality”. (Married woman)

“I would say that I as a person I’m a strong person who would really like to take on what I’m not unable to do” (Single woman)

On the other hand, personality decides women’s engagement in the public sphere. Women who are open and ready to connect with the wider society say, through welcoming friends to their homes really have a bigger network or social contacts and a number of social activities to engaged in.

“I mean naturally I’m born, I’m a social person. So I easily create social contacts and through that I see that I’m reaching out more to others… So in that way I have more activities than I really want.” (Single woman)

“like I said, Swedes are very cold people, very difficult to have, it’s hard to have a relationship with a Swede, I remember I really worked on it because I wanted to meet them. I remember I was calling, inviting people home and all the friends we have now are from me, I mean from my efforts. I did really effort to have them” (Married woman)

Socialisation is the other factor that determines women’s roles. Women implied the way they were raised and indicated pride for their social childhood. The Social learningtheory explains how gender roles are produced in everyday lives particularly in childhood depending on the setting. The model is grounded on three main concepts including, observational learning, imitation, and modeling (Ormrod, 1999). This theory deduces that behavior is acquired through re-enforcements and modeling; however, in the absence of these, social learning may occur through observation and imitation of others (Golombok and Fivush 1994, p.76). Subsequently, gender role practices are acquired through the same procedures as every other conduct (Bandura, 1977, cited in Golombok and Fivush 1994, p.76).Miller (2011) demonstrates that the interplay between cognitive, affective, biological, and socio structural aspects influence the process of gender role development. Many women alluded to their childhood and the qualities they saw and learnt as children.

“I think it’s me. I think it’s also has to do with African upbringing and being the eldest”. (Married woman)

“You have to help your parents. Because I remember when my dad told us about that. We were there not to just lay back and sleep but we were there to help our mum”

(Married woman)

Interestingly these women are married to Swedish partners but one of them maintained that her Swedish partner emphasised the patriarchal structure through encouraging her to maintain her ‘African thing’. Now this is not known if this particular husband is really happy with the so called ‘African thing’ or if it is a strategy for him to relax as the woman takes on the donkey work.

“Like I said from the beginning my husband is more African than- I mean more Congolese than me, he says to me E, I feel you are losing that African thing… when I tell him my husband help me he says that E, men in Africa are not in the kitchen.” (Married woman)

In the African tradition, family and kinship are the most imperative institutions and social life is mainly structured on norms (Therborn, 2004); thus gender is generally a collective classification with regard to general norms and values (Adkins and Lury 1995, in Gruber and Stefanov, 2002). Therborn (2004, p.118) alludes that ‘African custom is for male control of women‘ and that wifely subordination is still a major phenomenon of African social life.

Spirituality is likewise critical in determining what roles women take on as well as the decisions they make for themselves and their families. All the women said that they are Christians and that God is an essential figure in whatever they do. As one of them described, “Of course Prayer is the foundation that builds a home.” Indeed, they all specified congregational activities as a major aspect of the social activities they take an interest in. One of them recounted,

“I devoted my life ever since I came to Sweden to do God’s work and that I can do, normally when you are doing dishes, you don’t clash with any one. When you are doing your cleaning or dishes” (Single woman)

These responses mirror Foucault’s elucidation of the social distribution of roles by referring to nature. He alludes that “gods directly prepared the woman’s nature for indoor works and the man for works of the open air. Thus, the natural oppositeness of man and woman and the specificity of their aptitudes are indissociably tied to the good order; and inversely, order demands them as obligations” (Foucault 1984, in p.158-159).

Impact of roles on the status of women

One of the effects of gender roles on women has to do with sacrifice. The dual role of women, makes it is inevitable for women to make sacrifices. They need to negotiate between seeking after their careers or to tend to their families. For instance, all the women perceived the significance of education and actually disclosed that they had enrolled for training courses. However, this meant negotiations on the priorities, they felt that they needed to deal with their family demands to start with, before they could consider undertaking courses or even pursue careers. Moreover, women do take on part time jobs as a sacrifice for their families particularly when they have little children. The less priority which women ascribe to activities outside the family further suggests that in the meantime, they forfeit their own economic progress.

“Family reasons, I mean my children are still young and I had to settle down in my job and I mean, somehow have a base in my working life and also balance it with the children at home, because now being a single mother in Sweden, it takes up all the energy and everything that I have so then I haven’t been able to take on extra studies beyond what I can do on a normal day.” (Single woman)

“I don’t work full time. From the beginning we decided with my husband that I will not do full time. He did- doing full time. We felt like I was needed home”

(Married woman)

These discoveries are not unique to these women. Research elsewhere demonstrates that women are more committed to the private sphere as moms, carers and domestic workers while men are more concentrated in the public circles (Buckingham-Hatfield, 2000; Donato et al, 2006). For instance, in a survey of European women, it was discovered that 90 percent of women valued the family as the most significant sphere of their life (Gruber and Stefanov 2002, p.21). Besides, women are also not completely accepted in the public arena but are rather permitted to participate there just on sufferance (Buckingham-Hatfield, 2000). Thus, for majority of partnerships in Central Europe, housework and caring for children are undertakings performed principally by women while fathers primarily play and only share their leisure activities with the children; yet women who struggle to be productive need to sacrifice child care and much more house work – to the formal paid employment (Esping-Andersen, 2009; Gruber and Stefanov, 2002).

Finally, power developed as one of the advantages that women derive from the sort of roles they undertake. Because women take care of the homes and children, they are more required in basic leadership and decision making particularly in matters regarding household welfare. This is for both the married and the single woman. In any case, the reasons behind this control are distinctive. The single woman derives her power from the reality that she is the sole provider in the home; whereas for the married women, it is mostly in light of the fact that their spouses tend to distance themselves from family unit matters.

“I have freedom of independence that at times I feel in myself and say thank you Lord, I’m able to make decisions on my own whether I make wrong decisions I come back to myself and say I did that wrong… Independent in every way economic, social, independent woman, very powerful”. (single woman)

Keeping in mind the end goal to see how gender roles, impinge on the societal position and prosperity of women in the private and open circles; it is reasonable to consider the measure of assets at women’s disposal and also power relations (Sen, 2001). Such viewpoints explain the agency aspects (like, women’s earning power, ability to act, economic role outside the family, literacy and education, property rights) which exceptionally contribute to women’s voice, independence and empowerment (Sen ,2001). For example, working outside the home and acquiring an autonomous wage enhances and upgr


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