This dissertation is a study of Palestinian women’s roles following the First Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which began in 1987. This study considers whether Palestinian women found greater participation in their social life outside of the home during the challenges of the Intifada. In Palestinian society, traditional family roles and the various interpretations of Islamic teachings about to the family have severely restricted the role of women in society, and these limitations have served to increase the desire of these women for greater participation outside of the home.

This dissertation will focus on how religious forces, in addition to education and political participation, have influenced the roles available to Palestinian women. In addition, it will focus on whether family roles changed during the First Intifada and whether any of these changes has a lasting impact. An examination of the history and social back ground of Palestinian society, Muslim, and Arabic culture will help demonstrate the impact of religion, education, and political participation, on Palestinian women roles after the First Intifada, during the years 1987-1992.

The study was conducted by a team from Brigham Young University (BYU) during 1994-1995. The BYU team included professors Bruce Chadwick, Brain Barber, Tim Heaton, Camille Fronk, and Ray Huntington. The intent of study was to understand the family life of Palestinians. The study focused on marriage, family size, gender roles, education of women, marriage between relatives, and location of residence after marriage.

Questionnaires were obtained from approximately 7,000 ninth grade students and from both their parents. The youth and parent questionnaires were developed by the team and then translated into Arabic by Palestinian translators. The Arabic questions were reviewed by several Palestinians who recommended some minor corrections. Before distributing the survey, BYU team pre-tested the questionnaires with a sample of youth and adults living in East Jerusalem. Questionnaires were printed by a Palestinian business in the West Bank. The survey team then distributed the surveys in 64 secondary schools in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which were operated by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The research team was pleasantly surprised by the number of parents who returned the questionnaires. Completed surveys were returned by 92 to 97 percent of students (n=6, 923), by 85 to 94 percent of the fathers (n= 6, 253), and by 84 to 90 percent of their mothers (n=6,024). A ball-point pen was given to each student and a calculator to each head teacher as gifts for their cooperation in distributing, completing, and collecting the questionnaires. To express appreciation to the schools who participated, the research team presented a report of the data school officials.

A structural equation model was used to predict the effects of education, religion, and political participation on family roles. Figure 2 shows the predicted model with B- coefficients. The previous results suggest little change is family roles in Palestine. Thus, given this lack of change in family roles, the model had little to predict and it is not surprising that only 2% of the variance was explained (CFI= .874, χ2 = 80.5, and df=6). Overall, the final model suggests that education, religion, and political participation had a limited impact on women seeking changes in family roles.

As expected, higher levels of religiosity defined by stronger commitment to Islam were significantly associated with lower likelihood of women seeking change in family roles (β-coefficient= -.059, p-value= .009). On the other hand, increases in women’s level of education (β-coefficient= .114, p-value <.001) and higher levels of political participation defined by participation and involvement in the Intifada (β-coefficient=.065, p-value < .001) were significantly associated with a higher likelihood of women seeking change in the family roles.

It is also unsurprising that education was the strongest predictive factor. Research indicates that as education increases, women seek change in their familial roles. On the other hand, it is surprising to find only a weak relationship between women’s involvement in the Intifada and a desire for change in family roles.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Palestinian women, First Intifada, Palestinian uprising, traditional gender roles, socialization



Included in

Sociology Commons