Gender Stereotypes and Preconception Health: Men’s and Women’s Expectations of Responsibility and Intentions to Engage in Preventive Behaviors

Susan Mello, Andy S.L. Tan, Ashley Sanders-Jackson, Cabral Aziza Bigman-Galimore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction As mounting evidence underscores the importance of both men and women taking steps before pregnancy to improve reproductive outcomes, public health priorities are shifting toward a more gender-inclusive program of promoting preconception health (PCH). This study examined whether prescriptive gender stereotypes, defined as men’s and women’s beliefs about PCH behavioral norms each gender should uphold, were positively associated with intentions to engage in behaviors to protect a future child’s health. Methods Data came from a June 2017 online survey of 609 U.S. men and women ages 18–44. Two six-item scales of prescriptive same- and opposite-gender stereotypes were used to predict a six-item scale of intentions to engage in six recommended PCH behaviors (i.e., avoiding smoking, secondhand smoke, drinking, exposure to bisphenol A and pesticides, and preventing Zika infection). Multiple linear regression models also adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics. Results Among both male and female respondents, PCH prescriptive gender stereotypes for men were rated significantly lower than those for women. Adjusting for covariates, stronger prescriptive same-gender stereotypes were associated with increased PCH intentions (men: B = 0.496, p < 0.001; women: B = 0.486, p < 0.001). Opposite-gender stereotypes were also positively associated with PCH intentions (men: B = 0.205, p < 0.001; women: B = 0.235, p < 0.001). Current every day smoking status (men and women), being uninsured (women only), and having children (women only) were also associated with lower PCH intentions. Conclusion Prescriptive gender stereotypes may play an important, yet slightly different, role in promoting PCH behavior among men and women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)459-469
Number of pages11
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Communication
  • Gender roles
  • Health education and promotion
  • Norms
  • Preconception health
  • Prescriptive gender stereotypes
  • Responsibility
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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