Help to perpetuate traditional gender roles: Benevolent sexism increases engagement in dependency-oriented cross-gender helping

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2016 Jan;110(1):55-75. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000037. Epub 2015 Oct 12.


Based on theorizing that helping relations may serve as a subtle mechanism to reinforce intergroup inequality, the present research (N = 1,315) examined the relation between benevolent sexism (i.e., a chivalrous yet subtly oppressive view of women) and helping. In cross-gender interactions, the endorsement of (Studies 1, 3, and 4) or exposure to (Study 2) benevolent sexism predicted (a) men's preference to provide women with dependency-oriented help (i.e., direct assistance) rather than tools for autonomous coping, and (b) women's preference to seek dependency-oriented help rather than tools for autonomous coping. Benevolent sexism did not predict men's and women's engagement in dependency-oriented helping relations in same-gender interactions. Studies 1 and 2 examined behavioral intentions in response to a series of hypothetical scenarios; Studies 3 and 4 examined actual behavior in tests of mathematical and logical ability, and pointed to assumed partner's expectations as a potential mediator. The converging evidence supports the hypothesis that benevolent sexism encourages engagement in cross-gender helping relations that perpetuate traditional gender roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beneficence
  • Dependency, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Femininity*
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Masculinity*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexism / psychology*
  • Young Adult