There have been various studies that have observed elements of gender roles in other countries, one such study was conducted by Williams and Best, the study explored gender stereotypes in 30 different nations involving 2800 university students as participants. They were given a 300 item adjective checklist and asked to decide whether an item was most associated with men or women. What they found out was that there was a broad consensus across countries with men being seen as more dominant and aggressive and women being seen as nurturing and defendant.
This supports the common stereotype of both genders, that males are “dominant and aggressive” and that females are “nurturing and defendant”. The findings from this study do have strengths, due to the sample used. The studies sample firstly was large and also very diverse in terms of culture, religion and ethnicity (expected of universities) and because of this the population validity of the findings increases and makes the results more generalizable and representative of the wider population, this means the conclusion of gender roles being consistent throughout cultures is applicable to the general population.
However there is a flaw within the study, you could say that although the sample was drawn from a large geographical pool, which should indicate representativeness, they were all students who share common attributes and viewpoints and so they may not being necessarily representative of the population of their country and all social groups within.
Also the construction of the checklist did not include an equal category alongside the male and female category, so this means that the division between the male and female categories may be exaggerated, thus prompting the students to believe that there is a gap between men and women and thus making them draw upon their inner stereotypical views.
Also there are methodological flaws, the checklist comes into account again as it is developed by Western psychologists, because of this the westernised perspective behaviours considered in one culture to be feminine may not be considered feminine in another, so therefore the findings may be of little use to those in other cultures. This study suggests that there are universal stereotypes about male-female characteristics therefore indicating that gender roles are influenced more y our biology and evolution rather than socially constructed.
However its arguable that the findings lack validity and that empirical evidence of cross-cultural studies on gender roles is less useful than initially believed. Another study is one conducted by Margaret Mead, she studied social groups in Papua New Guinea. Initially, she argued that the “Arapesh” men and women were gentle, the “Mundugumor” men and women were violent and the “Tchambuli”exhibited gender role differences with women being more dominant and men dependable.
She concluded that this date demonstrated cultural determinism and that gender differences are determined by social factors. However Mead later changed her view to one of culture relativism. When she re-analysed her data she realised that although both sexes of the Arapesh were non-aggressive and both sexes of the Mundugamor were aggressive, in all three societies the men were more aggressive than the women. This suggests that some behaviours are innate and universal, but the degree to which these behaviours are expressed is relative to the particular culture.
The study was a natural experiment, so Mead was observing the groups in their usual enviroment, it could be argued that she was noting their true behaviour, however it could be argued that the natives were simply providing Mead with the information she wanted to hear and therefore the study may not be as valid as it seems. Also there are methodological issues with the research conducted by Mead, as she used ethnographic field research and the data would have been gathered through participant observation, interviews and questionnaires, all methods whereby the results are easily subject to observer bias.
Mead would have had to speculate on what the data potentially meant and acknowledge that her own cultural biases will have affected the interpretation. Due to the fact results may not be objective and the fact that non-scientific methods were used to collect data (both key features of psychology as a science), the validity of the findings seems to decrease and due to this reduced validity we cannot accurately conclude that gender roles do vary depending on culture to the studies methodological flaws.
However, there is further evidence to support the assumption that gender roles are not consistent worldwide, Antonia Young carried out a study on the unusual gender roles in Albania. She found a group called the Albania virgins who were born into families which lacked a male presence and thus adopted the male role, committed to being a virgin and dressed and acted as men. The society accepted them as male and they were admitted to all male clubs and social groups.
This suggests that societies create gender roles based on the needs of their society/culture and therefore shows that genders do vary across cultures. In conclusion, cross cultural studies help us to establish whether nature or nurture has the greater influence over gender roles. Both Mead and Young’s studies imply that nurture and social influences have a greater influence on gender roles, however evidence from William and Best lies on the nature side of the debate by indicating that our biology is more dominant.