This paper examines how gender norms shape the lives Syrian refugee adolescent girls in Jordan. The authors consider four components of gender norms: (1) personal gender role attitudes; (2) personal gendered behaviors; (3) community gender role attitudes; and (4) community gendered behavior. They analyze how gender role attitudes and gendered behaviors differ by sex, age and nationality, and how domestic work and school enrollment are associated with the gender role attitudes and behaviors of the individual, their parents and those of the surrounding communities. The authors compare outcomes between Syrian boys and girls, and between Syrian girls and Jordanian girls.
The analysis draws on data from the 2016 Jordan Labor Market Panel Survey (JLMPS). The 2016 JLMPS over-sampled neighborhoods with a high share of non-Jordanians in the 2015 Population Census to ensure an adequate sample of Syrians. The survey includes questions on: gender role attitudes (gender equity); justification of domestic violence against women; involvement in decision-making; and mobility. It also includes data on hours of domestic work per week, and current enrollment in school.
- Gender role attitudes are similar across generations for both Jordanians and Syrians. There are no significant differences between adolescents and adults in gender role attitudes or justification of domestic violence. However, there are differences between adolescents and adults in gendered behaviors (decision-making and mobility) for both Jordanians and Syrians.
- Women and girls have more equitable gender role attitudes than men and boys.
- Gender role attitudes are similar across nationalities. There are no significant differences between Syrians and Jordanians in gender role attitudes.
- Syrian adolescents are less likely to justify domestic violence than Jordanian adolescents. This may reflect more progressive gender role attitudes, reactions to experiences of violence, or the positive impact of humanitarian programming.
- Syrian adolescent girls are less mobile than their Jordanian counterparts, which may reflect greater real and perceived risks they face in public. However, adult Syrian women are more mobile than their Jordanian counterparts, which is likely to reflect ‘de facto’ empowerment because of the absence of men. Controlling for female-headed households, the mobility difference between adult Syrian and Jordanian women became insignificant.
- Gender inequality in domestic work is substantial. At age 10, there are no significant differences between girls and boys, but the results suggest that domestic workloads diverge as adolescents get older. Adolescent girls living in communities with higher socio-economic status and Syrian adolescents in camps do significantly less domestic work (possibly because there is less domestic work to do). Among Syrians, children do more domestic work when mothers have more equitable gender role attitudes than fathers.
- When the community has more equitable gender role attitudes, girls undertake more domestic work. This counterintuitive finding may reflect expectations in a conservative social context, that when women engage in non-traditional roles (e.g., work outside the home), they must also perform their domestic duties well. While adolescent girls are not working outside the home, they may be taking on more domestic work, e.g., doing the dishes to get permission to visit friends.
- When girls or their mothers have greater decision-making power, girls engage in less domestic work. The domestic work that girls do not perform is picked up by their mothers. Girls’ own decision-making power and mothers’ decision-making power have no effect on men’s domestic work hours.
- There are significant differences in educational attainment and enrollment between Syrian girls and Jordanian girls, but there are no significant differences in educational outcomes between Syrian girls and Syrian boys. Differences in parental education and paternal employment status explain most of the raw differences in educational outcomes between Syrians and Jordanian girls. However, Syrian and Jordanian girls have similar educational outcomes after accounting for differences in their socioeconomic status.
- More equitable own gender role attitudes predict significantly higher enrollment in school. This may, however, be a case of reverse causality, with girls who remain in school longer developing more equitable attitudes. Less gender equitable fathers predict lower school enrollment for girls. Counter-intuitively, more equitable community gender role attitudes predict lower enrollment, and girls who justify domestic violence are more likely to be in school. However, those who live in communities with higher justification of domestic violence are less likely to be in school and, for Syrians, a mother with a higher level of domestic violence justification predicts lower enrollment.
Gendered enrollment and domestic work outcomes depend on own, parental, and community level gender role attitudes and gendered behaviors in complex ways. The results highlight the important linkages between different dimensions of gender norms and social and economic outcomes.