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Gender Roles and Stereotypes

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Autor:   •  February 18, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,564 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,345 Views

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Multitudes of studies have examined the effects of societal and parental influences on

children's own beliefs about gender roles and stereotypes. This paper, which is an

elaboration of a group project** created by the Gender Boundaries Group* conducted in

Eugene Matusov's Fall 1996 class, Psychology 100G, studies the research surrounding

gender roles and stereotypes perpetuated by parents onto their children via modeling,

clothing, toys, and television exposure, and its effects have been considered in an

attempt to encourage a gender neutral environment.

*The Gender Boundaries Group consists of: Barbara Burns, Dave Fellner, Elizabeth

Hom, Deborah Ingram, Edward Rivera, Lorraine Villoria, and Mary Zinsmeyer.

**My specific contribution to the group project centered on societal influences on

children and is included in the text of this report as the second paragraph. My extension

of the group project, this final paper, includes research conducted via the World Wide

Web as well as a section on androgynous gender role orientation.


Do parents inadvertently expose their children to their preconceived notions of

gender-stereotypical expectations and roles? Gender roles and boundaries can be

comforting and provide guidelines for people; however, these roles are both limiting and

constraining in today's rapidly changing society. Infants begin with many similarities; they

are born incompetent-- needing comfort, food, and warmth from a capable adult.

(Barbara Rogoff lecture, 11/19/96, UCSC) While some studies and theories have found

that gender differences are based in biology and evolution,

( socialization, both parental

and societal, creates gender differences that become thoroughly entrenched in our

children. This paper will focus specifically on how steretypes prevalent in socialization,

modeling, clothing, room decor, toys, and televion influence children as well as the

introduce the benefits of creating a non-sex stereotyped environment.

Gender stereotypes in infants are perpetuated by society's expectations and

perceptions. Societal influences, preconceived notions and expectations enforce

already existing gender stereotypes. Society's gender stereotypes increase during the

preschool and childhood years, reach a plateau, and decrease in adolescence (Vogel,

Lake, Evans, & Hildebrandt Karraker, 1991). In the study of forty-eight children, their

mothers, and 16 college students, gender based stereotypes influenced interaction with

infants which in turn socialized the infants to conform to their respective gender role.

Ratings of the female infants centered on their small size and beauty. Male infants are

judged usually according to their ability and intelligence. While evidence of gender

stereotyping in infant ratings are becoming less dominant after adolescence, sex

stereotyping in adults' behavior towards infants has changed little. Obviously, society

shapes the gender stereotypes that both children and adults hold.

Parental expectations put pressure on offspring to perform in like ways to gender

specific behaviors. The formations of gender boundaries were found in the verbal

descriptions for newborn infants. In an early study, evidence was found to support the

theory that parents respond to their children in different ways according to the child's

sex, from gender stereotyped birth activities, clothing, to toys and bedroom decor

(Rubin, Provenzano, & Zella, 1974). This study also found that daughters were

described significantly different than sons, with adjectives of "little", "beautiful", "pretty",

"cute" and "resembling their mothers". The fathers were more extreme in stereotyping

their offspring than were the mothers. Twenty years later, in another study, white,

middle-class parents were asked to describe their newborn children using Rubin's

nine-point adjective scale and their perceptions and expectations of the new infant

(Hildebrandt Karraker, Vogel, Lake, 1995). The parents in this study showed no gender

stereotyping in verbal descriptions of the newborns, although some limited stereotyping

in ratings was observed. Specifically, parents described their daughters as finer

featured, less strong and more delicate than male babies. The mothers used fewer

terms than did the fathers.

These conflicting studies suggest that there may be decreasing expectations and

perceptions of gender specific behaviors by parents. In twenty-three studies reviewed

Stern and Karraker (1989), the strength and consistency of gender labeling was

evaluated. In each of the twenty-three studies, gender neutrally clothed infants were



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