The mother of violations: Motherhood as the primary expectation of women

Hanna Szekeres*, Eran Halperin, Tamar Saguy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Recent conservative political rhetoric support women having careers but emphasize that this should not be an obstacle to having children. We propose that this sentiment reflects the hierarchy of gender norms in today's society whereby motherhood is the ultimate role that women are expected to fulfil and denying such role evokes social penalties, above and beyond other prescribed gender norms. Across five experiments (N = 738), we predicted and found that voluntarily childless women elicit more negative reactions than mothers, and importantly, also more than women violating other gender norms in the realm of occupation (Study 1), power (Study 2) or sexual orientation (Study 3). We demonstrate that these patterns cannot be explained merely by a perceived lack of communal qualities of the non-mothers (Study 4) and also show that involuntary childless women do not receive the same negativity (Study 5). We discuss this, often neglected, gender bias and its resistance to social change.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1875-1896
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. British Journal of Social Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society.


  • gender bias
  • gender norms
  • motherhood
  • prejudice
  • stereotypes


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