Animal Studies Bibliography

Peek, Charles W., Charlotte Chorn Dunham, and Bernadette E. Dietz. 1997. Gender, relational role orientation, and affinity for animal rights. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 37(11- 12): 905-921.

Research (with non-national samples) on animal rights supporters suggests that women are more supportive of animal rights, and some authors explain this finding as due to the relational orientation of caring and nurturing in traditional women's roles. Girls' learning nurturing behaviors (Chodorow) and to make moral decisions based on relationships (Gilligan) might lead to support for animal rights in three ways: girls are more likely to see animals as individuals and therefore to go beyond the anima-human barrier; closer relationships with animals may make animal abuse more apparent; and maternal thinking and experience of subjugation might encourage an identification. The research does not, however, test whether this actually explains animal rights support nor whether relational role orientation also explains men's support.

Research questions : Does relational role orientation explain animal rights support among women? To what extent do relational role orientation and other factors affect animal rights support among each gender? [No hypotheses given]

Independent variable/operational definitions : relational role orientation--3 separate measures: OTHERFIRST ( you have to take care of yourself first...then help other people), OBTOHELP (obligated or have the option to help elderly parent or injured/ill spouse), OTHERHELP (how important it is for children to learn to help others when they need help)

Dependent variable/operational definitions : animal rights attitudes--2 separate measures: AMRIGHTS (animals should have the same moral rights that human beings do) and AMTESTS (it is right to use animals for medical testing if it might save human lives)

Controlled variables : Variables shown in previous research to be associated with animal rights support were controlled: sex, age, race, level of education, annual family income, marital status, having children or not, church attendance, political views (liberal to conservative self-placement), views toward science (negative views associated with animal rights support), and views toward the environment.

Findings : Women did support animal rights more than did men. However, relational role orientation did not explain their support. The only significant correlation between sex and role orientation is that men were more likely to believe people are obligated to help sick family members. OBTOHELP and OTHERFIRST were both associated with AMRIGHTS, but surprisingly, people with greater relational role orientation supported AMRIGHTS less . Relational role orientation also fails to distinguish between animal rights supporters and non-supporters within each sex. Women who felt less obligated to help sick family and were less willing to put others before self supported AMRIGHTS more , but this relationship disappeared after controls were added. There were no relationships with AMTESTS before controls were added; after controls, two weak relationships were found: women more likely to put self before others were more likely to oppose animal testing, and women who believed children should learn to help others were more likely to support animal testing. These relationships only appeared after the last controls, attitudes toward science and the environment, were added. There are no relationships between relational role orientation and animal rights support among men. Small, negative relationships between OTHERFIRST and OBTOHELP appeared before controls and disappeared after controls, as was the case with women. Greater belief in children learning to help others was associated with disapproval of animal testing, a relationships which also disappeared after controls were added. This study suggests, then, that although women support animal rights more than do men, relational role orientation is not the explanation. One reason may be that there were not significant gender differences on the role orientation measures. Women's support for animal rights may not be from caring attitudes but rather from structural placement--experience of oppression may produce empathy for other oppressed groups and egalitarian worldviews. Though some relationships were found to explain animal rights support among women (not men), their weakness, contradictory nature, and lack of relationship to AMRIGHTS suggests that the role explanation is not strong. These contradictory impulses in women may be due to a current ambivalence toward nurturing roles due to women's move into the workforce, the second shift, etc. Other variables to assess animal rights support should be added, since there was not much variance in these. Different measures of animal rights support and of role orientation might change the results. Further research should also address structural factors and the possible ambivalence over care.

Sample/population sampled : nationally representative--1993 GSS


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