Changing attitudes toward homosexuality in South Korea, 1996–2018. By: Lin, Zhiyong and Lee, Jaein. 2024. Social Science Research. Vol. 118, pN.PAG-N.PAG.

Women are often considered more liberal than men on controversial social issues, but gender gaps in sociopolitical attitudes across different age groups have not been fully explored. This study challenges the taken-for-granted gender differences in public attitudes toward homosexuality by examining both between-gender gaps and within-gender changes across the life course. Using data from five waves of the World Values Survey in South Korea, we explore gender and age differences in Korean adults’ attitudes toward homosexuality from 1996 to 2018. Consistent with previous research, people become more conservative as they get older, and in general, women are more accepting of homosexuality than men, accounting for sociodemographic covariates. However, this gender difference is conditioned by people’s life stages. Only among young adults (aged 18–29) were female respondents more accepting of homosexuality than their male counterparts. For people aged 30 and older, there are no significant gender differences in attitudes, and for both women and men, homosexuality is mostly unacceptable during their mid (aged 50–59) and late adulthood (aged 60+). Further mediation investigation has shown gendered mechanisms behind age differences in homosexuality acceptability. For both women and men, traditional family/gender attitudes provide significant explanations about age differences in homosexuality, while for women, not for men, family status, especially the number of children, makes older women more conservative in homosexuality issues. We suggest that heteropatriarchal social structures may lead to a resistance to attitudinal changes in non-traditional family forms, such as homosexuality.