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Rigidity and flexibility of gender stereotypes in children: Developmental or differential?

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Previous research has shown that the early learning of male–female categories is characterized by rigid beliefs about stereotypic differences, but that once gender knowledge is well established, the beliefs become more flexible. Because most studies are cross-sectional, it is not known if the early rigidity represents a normative transitional developmental stage that passes, or if early individual differences in rigidity continue into later childhood. To answer that question, analyses were performed on longitudinal data of 64 children who had been questioned about their gender concepts yearly from ages 5 to 10 years. Supporting a cognitive-developmental approach, the findings showed that the period of rigidity was short-lived whether rigidity began early or late or whether the level of peak rigidity was high or low. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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... Solbes-Canales et al. (2020) found gender stereotypes in children aged 4-9 years old and significant differences in different gender groups. Trautner et al. (2005) found that individual gender stereotypes appeared at the age of five, reached a peak of rigidity at 7 or 8 years of age, and then gradually gained flexibility as children's gender cognition and understanding deepened. Zhang's (2004) research on children aged 3-9 years old found that 4-5 years old and 7-8 years old were two key transitional periods for children's self-esteem development. ...
... According to several scholars, the transitional periods of children's gender equality awareness, self-esteem, and subjective well-being appear at school age (Zhang, 2004;Trautner et al., 2005;Casas and González-Carrasco, 2019). Moreover, some have found that school and teacher support are more conducive than family and other social support in enhancing children's gender equality, self-esteem, and subjective well-being (Chu et al., 2010;Weber et al., 2010;Chen, 2016). ...
... This may relate to the fact that children in the third grade are generally 7-8 years old. Previous studies (e.g., Trautner et al., 2005) have shown that in the development of children's gender equality awareness, children aged seven to eight are at the peak of gender stereotyping due to factors such as enhanced self-awareness and inadequate understanding of gender cognition. Subsequently, as children continue to learn and grow, their knowledge of gender expands and they are likely to exhibit more gender equality awareness (Trautner et al., 2005). ...
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The objective of this study was to investigate and analyze the status and influential factors of gender equality awareness, self-esteem, and subjective well-being in school-age boys and girls. The results can help schools and teachers provide more effective gender equality and mental health education. In the study, 284 valid questionnaires were collected from a total of 323 school-age boys and girls in the Hunan Province, China (effective response rate of 87.93%). The questionnaire covered gender equality awareness, self-esteem, and subjective well-being, with the influencing factors analyzed through multiple linear regression. There was a significant correlation among children’s gender equality awareness in all areas examined (family, occupation, and school), with both boys and girls having the lowest awareness of gender equality in occupational fields. The children’s self-esteem and subjective well-being were significantly correlated as well. Gender equality awareness, self-esteem, and subjective well-being among boys and girls reflected different influential factors. Androgynous traits (neither feminine nor masculine) were conducive to the development of gender equality awareness and self-esteem among the children. Therefore, schools and teachers need to provide gender equality and mental health education according to the specific psychological characteristics of each boy and girl.
... In this regard, Trousdale and McMillan (2003) found that age had an important influence on the understanding of the gender category. Along the same lines, some research suggests that it is important to pay attention to age in the learning process of the gender category (Trautner et al., 2005). More specifically, some recent studies state that there is a need to further explore the knowledge that young children have about gender, since between 2 and 6 years of age the learning of the gender category increases rapidly (see for example Callahan & Nicholas, 2019). ...
... In contrast, Paterson (2014) observed that some boys and girls in elementary school, although they also had strong expectations relating to gender, were content with Elisabeth's decision to leave Ronald and enjoyed the original story. It is also important to bear in mind that, as Trautner et al. (2005) point out, boys and girls of primary age enter a phase of relative flexibility with respect to gender. Nevertheless, we must take into account that the research was carried out in a specific context, so the results cannot be extrapolated to other contexts. ...
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The study presented investigates the understanding of feminist literature by preschool children in a Spanish school. To carry out the research, semi-structured interviews with 65 students were performed, in order to discuss the story, The Paper Bag Princess . The data analysis was conducted under a poststructuralist lens, using the cultural matrix of gender as a tool for analysis. This document collects the results obtained from the following categories of analysis: emphasis on female beauty, discourse of romantic love, comparison with traditional stories (category maintenance work) and alternative discourses of femininity. The findings of the study indicate that boys and girls use two different strategies when coming in contact with feminist tales: comparing the feminist story to the, hitherto, considered ‘correct’ or natural order and correcting every element that challenged the structures of the cultural matrix.
... These gendered self-concepts could explain gender differences in anticipated prioritization of family over career in the future (Block et al., 2018), enrollment in maleand female-dominated high-school programs (Tellhed et al., 2018), and choices for STEM careers (Eccles and Wang, 2016). Moreover, children's gender stereotypes increase between age 3 to 5 (Halim et al., 2013), peak between age 5 to 7, and become more flexible during middle childhood (Trautner et al., 2005) and flexibility continues to develop into adolescence (Bartini, 2006). Finally, after being able to identify one's own gender around age 3, and an understanding of gender constancy at 6-7 years of age, in middle childhood children develop a more complex and multidimensional gender identity (Halim and Ruble, 2010). ...
... A final noteworthy finding is that we found correlational evidence for a possible developmental process implicated in children's views about their future selves, as older child age was associated with less gender-typical views about career and family. This finding fits with previous research demonstrating that children's gender stereotypes become more flexible and less rigid over time (Trautner et al., 2005). In addition, this finding is noteworthy because it could imply that children's views about their future career and family involvement might over time become less congruent with their gender identity or their parents' career and family involvement (assuming that the latter two factors remain relatively constant over time). ...
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Substantial gender disparities in career advancement are still apparent, for instance in the gender pay gap, the overrepresentation of women in parttime work, and the underrepresentation of women in managerial positions. Regarding the developmental origins of these gender disparities, the current study examined whether children’s views about future career and family involvement were associated with children’s own gender schemas (gender stereotypes, gender identity) and parents’ career- and family-related gender roles. Participants were 142 Dutch families with a child between the ages of 6 and 12 years old (M = 9.80, SD = 1.48, 60% girls). The families had different compositions (1 parent, 2 parents, 1 to 3 children). Children completed a computer task assessing gender stereotypes about toys and questionnaires on gender identity (i.e., felt similarity to same- and other-gender children) and their views about future career and family involvement. Parents reported their occupation, work hours, and task division in the home, which were combined in a composite variable reflecting gender-typicality of career and family involvement. Generalized estimation equations were used to take into account dependency between family members. Results revealed that parents’, and especially mothers’, gender-typical career and family involvement was associated with children’s gender-typical views about future career and family involvement. In addition, children’s felt similarity to the same gender was associated with children’s gender-typical expectations about career and family involvement. These findings suggest that parents’ career, work hours, and task division in the home, together play an important role in how their children envision their future work and family roles. Children themselves also play an active role in developing this vision for the future by their own gender identity, specifically by how similar they feel to individuals of the same gender. To reduce gender disparities in the occupational and domestic domain, programs need to be designed that focus on parental role modeling in the family as well as children’s gender identity development.
... Measuring the spread of gender roles among childhood and identifying individual and environmental factors that contribute to their strengthening is extremely important to offer children a chance of empowerment, which would allow the cultural evolution of our society. In fact, according to many developmental studies, during primary school, the rigidity of the gender categorisation decreases in favour of an increase in cognitive flexibility, also in relation to the adherence to gender stereotypes [29,30]. Thus, environmental influences become increasingly important for children's acceptance of rigid gender roles, determining the meanings of the identity of themselves and others. ...
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Background: The internalisation of gender stereotypes has long-term impacts on the aspirations, opportunities and psychosocial well-being of people. The main objective of this study is to measure the adherence to gender roles among children, analysing the link between their roles' internalisation, the family context and the socioeconomic environment. Method: During the Spring 2021, a survey was carried in Rome on children aged 8-11 through a structured questionnaire. The explanatory dimensions of the analysed topics were identified and a survey questionnaire with an ad hoc administration method were developed. Results: The results show a widespread internalisation of traditional gender roles among the respondents and differences by sex were found, since their acceptance is higher among boys for male roles and among girls for female roles. As the age increases, the adherence to male roles decreases for both boys and girls, while high levels of prosociality resulted in a lower adherence to female roles among boys. No significant relations were found with family and environmental variables. Conclusions: These findings show how the internalisation of gender stereotypes is already traceable at this age, and due to a different path of primary socialisation, boys and girls develop their gender identity consistent with social expectations. The lack of significant relations with environmental variables could be related to the age of the respondents, as the process of primary socialisation imbued with gender stereotypes still does not overlap secondary socialisation. These trends should be monitored during late childhood since at this age children are cognitively plastic, but also vulnerable and influenceable by surrounding stimuli. This research approach, especially if extended to a wider geographical scale, can provide important knowledge to support the relational well-being of children and equal opportunities of society as a whole.
... From a theoretical standpoint, the observed age-related decrease in male-biased competence ratings for the male and gender-neutral occupations is also consistent with developmental increases in stereotype flexibility found in other domains (e.g., choice of toys, activities, peers: Trautner et al., 2005), which in turn have been linked to children's changing cognitive abilities (e.g., abilities to classify on multiple dimensions: Bigler & Liben, 1992). ...
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Overcoming gender occupational stereotypes is a major educational objective in removing barriers to children's future career ambitions and employment aspirations. Yet, the mechanisms that underlie the development of occupational stereotypes in school-age children remain unclear. This questionnaire study investigates the developmental relationship between two possible factors contributing to occupational stereotype development, perceptions of occupational gender ratio and personal beliefs about occupational competence, across the primary school years. One questionnaire assessed beliefs about the occupations held by men and women, by asking 195 children, aged 6 to 11 (UK Years 2 to 6), to report on the gender ratio of 24 occupations (e.g., who does a specific job) on a 5-point Likert scale (only males, mostly males, both, mostly females or only females). A second questionnaire assessed stereotyped attitudes by asking 194 children of comparable age to judge the competence of men and women (e.g., who can do a specific job very well) on the same scale. We found that children across age groups predominantly assigned men and women to traditionally male and female occupations, respectively, both in terms of perceived distribution and competence. However, while the perceived distribution of men and women remained stable across the sexes and age groups, stereotyped responding for competence was lower in girls than in boys, and decreased with age in both sexes for traditionally male and gender-neutral (but not for traditionally female), occupations. Some occupations which have become less gender-segregated in the workforce (e.g., Doctor, Head teacher), are also becoming more gender-balanced in children's beliefs. Taken together these results suggest that children's occupational stereotypes are influenced by developmental differences in children's understanding of gender, as well as perceptions about what jobs women and men have. We conclude by discussing practical implications for targeted interventions aimed at reducing occupational stereotyping in children.
... According to (Базилевич & Тонконого, 2019), it is determined that at this age ossification of the skeleton are not yet completed, which provides a fairly high level mobility and significant reserves available for improvement flexibility (Segal, Hein, & Basford, 2004), especially under the influence of CrossFit exercise. The data obtained by our study are consistent with the indicators of (Chen, Fox, Ku, & Taun, 2013;Trautner et al., 2005), according to which there are positive changes in the level of development of flexibility in boys and girls of 3ed level classes, under the influence of health fitness. ...
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The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a CrossFit exercises over a period of 8 weeks in a group of high school students during their physical education sessions at the school. and to mitigate the deficits in fitness caused by COVID-19 prevention measures. In this research included 94 students subject aged (16– 17) years were randomly allocated into an included 46 students (2nd level :12 men 11 women; 3rd level : 12 men 11 women) and 1 control group included 48 students (2nd level :13 men 11 women; 3rd level : 13 men 12 women Experimental group (EG) that performed the 8 weeks CrossFit exercises and control group (CG). Physical fitness tests were done : lifting straight legs in height (number times); running on the spot with an intensity of 70% of the maximum to severe fatigue (c); “Shuttle” run 4 × 9 m (with); 60 m run (s) and cross twine (cm). There are a considering changes, development of the maximum dynamic force endurance, speed abilities, flexibility and mobility in the hip joints of the main groups, In the age aspect, there is mainly the improvement in results with age, both in the main and control groups (p>0,05). The study achieved a significant improvement in the physical condition of the students, also allows to talk about the effectiveness of training, built on the basis of a motivated choice of the target CrossFit high school program.
... By elementary school, they have extensive gender knowledge, and rigid ideas about what males and females should be like and what does and does not fit the two sexes. This rigidity peaks between the ages of 5 and 7, and children's gender stereotypes only slowly begin to become more flexible thereafter (Trautner et al., 2005). ...
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One of the most robust findings in psychopathology is the fact that specific phobias are more prevalent in women than in men. Although there are several theoretical accounts for biological and social contributions to this gender difference, empirical data are surprisingly limited. Interestingly, there is evidence that individuals with stereotypical feminine characteristics are more fearful than those with stereotypical masculine characteristics; this is beyond biological sex. Because gender role stereotypes are reinforced by parental behavior, we aimed to examine the relationship of maternal gender stereotypes and children’s fear. Dyads of 38 mothers and their daughters (between ages 6 and 10) were included. We assessed maternal implicit and explicit gender stereotypes as well as their daughters’ self-reported general fearfulness, specific fear of snakes, and approach behavior toward a living snake. First, mothers’ fear of snakes significantly correlated with their daughters’ fear of snakes. Second, mothers’ gender stereotypes significantly correlated with their daughters’ self-reported fear. Specifically, maternal implicit gender stereotypes were associated with daughters’ fear of snakes and fear ratings in response to the snake. Moreover, in children, self-reported fear correlated with avoidance of the fear-relevant animal. Together, these results provide first evidence for a potential role of parental gender stereotypes in the development and maintenance of fear in their offspring.
Research
In spite of advances in recognising that girls and boys, and women and men, do not have to be bounded by traditional roles, gender stereotypes persist in education and beyond. Children and youth are affected by gender stereotypes from the early ages, with parental, school, teacher and peer factors influencing the way students internalise their gender identities. As such, not only is intervening in pre-primary education necessary, but also measures at the primary and secondary levels are key to eradicate gender stereotypes and promote gender equality. Based on the analytical framework developed by the OECD Strength through Diversity project, this paper provides an overview of gender stereotyping in education, with some illustrations of policies and practices in place across OECD countries, with a focus on curriculum arrangements, capacity-building strategies and school-level interventions in primary and secondary education.
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Past research has explored children’s gender stereotypes about specific intellectual domains, such as mathematics and science, but less is known about the acquisition of domain-general stereotypes about the intellectual abilities of women and men. Here, the authors administered Implicit Association Tests to Chinese Singaporean adults and 8- to 12-year-olds (N = 731; 58% female) to examine the gender stereotype that portrays exceptional intellectual ability (e.g., genius, brilliance) as a male attribute. This gender-brilliance stereotype was present among both adults and children and for both Chinese and White stereotype targets. It also was stronger among older children and among children whose parents also showed it. This early-emerging stereotype may be an obstacle to gender equity in many prestigious employment sectors.
Thesis
Recently, gender diversity has become more visible in the U.S. Yet many still struggle to understand gender identities outside of the binary of man and woman (Buck, 2016). One lay theory children and adults may use to think about gender and specific gender identities is essentialism. Essentialism is a set of beliefs that center around the idea that certain categories have an unknown or ill-defined essence. As a result of this presumed essence, the categories are thought to be biologically based, discrete from one another, informative about category members’ behaviors and preferences, and immutable. Although prior research has established the use of essentialist beliefs about gender from an early age, several questions remain, especially at a time when gender diversity is becoming more visible. In this dissertation, I: (1) developed a new scale of gender essentialism for children five to ten years of age, the Gender Essentialism Scale for Children (GES-C); and (2) examined the effect of stories about trans-identity characters on children’s understanding of transgender identities and gender essentialism. The GES-C is a 16-item measure of gender essentialism with four four-item subscales measuring the components of essentialism described above. I found the GES-C to be a reliable and valid scale with 316 participants aged five to ten years old. I also performed a confirmatory factory analysis (CFA) using structural equation modeling (SEM) and found my scale to have fit indices outside of commonly used cutoffs for good model fit but in line with the other scales for children specifically developed for use in developmental research psychology. Next, I conducted a study with 173 five- to six-year-old and nine- to ten-year-old children to test what children can learn about transgender identities from stories and whether this can lead to a reduction in gender essentialist beliefs. Participants in this study were assigned to one of three conditions, varying in the story that they heard: the Realistic story about a transgender girl socially transitioning from a boy to a girl; the Metaphorical/Fantastical story about an anthropomorphized, red-labeled marker who discovers their identity as blue (this story could be interpreted as a metaphor for being transgender); or No story (control). Hearing the realistic story about the transgender girl significantly improved understanding of transgender identities. And although I found no overall reduction in gender essentialism, essentialist beliefs about the immutability of gender were reduced after hearing the realistic story. These findings underscore the importance of examining gender essentialism, wholly and by component, in children. Being able to efficiently and effectively measure multiple components of gender essentialism at one time allows researchers to better measure when and how essentialist beliefs change in children. It will be especially important to understand how children’s gender essentialist beliefs may or may not change as a result of the increased visibility of gender diverse identities.
Article
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Chapter
It has been argued that there is an acceleration of gender-differential socialization during adolescence, perhaps at the onset of puberty or shortly after, and perhaps especially for girls. New domains may become the object of gender-differential socialization pressure and demands for conformity may increase in domains previously subject to such pressure. We shall refer to this argument as the Gender-Intensification Hypothesis. The hypothesis frequently is invoked to explain observed behavioral differences between adolescent boys and girls. Here we shall review information bearing upon the hypothesis and suggest some new points of departure for research related to it and to the study of gender-differential socialization during adolescence in general. We begin by considering some forms in which the hypothesis appears and then turn to our review and to its implications.
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This study investigated the development of children's conceptions of and reactions to cross-gender behavior in their peers. Eighty elementary-school children at tour grade levels (kindergarten and second, fourth, and sixth grades) were interviewed about their attitudes toward hypothetical peers who violated child-generated norms for sex-typed behavior in each of four categories (traits, toy s, activities, and friendship preferences). Older children reported that they would react more negatively toward cross-gender displays of activity (e.g., girls climbing trees) and friendship preferences than did younger children. Moreover, children reported they would react more negatively toward males than toward females exhibiting cross-gender friend and toy preferences. While younger children were unable to generate sex-typed traits reliably older children were and reported that they would respond negatively toward children with cross-sex-typed traits. Finally, although the vast majority of children at all ages indi...
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Inconsistencies that have been reported in past research on developmental changes in gender schemata actually may be a consequence of differences in the way these schemata have been conceptualized and measured. Meta-analysis was used to evaluate this interpretation of past work. On forced choice measures, in which children must select one sex or the other for each item (e.g., "Who is the strong one?"), "correct" matches to societal stereotypes increased with age. Increases were not, however, related to the type of question used (e.g., "Who is ...?" versus "Who can ...?"). Girls made more stereotype matches than boys, although the magnitude of the effect was small. In contrast, on nonforced choice measures, type of question did affect results. Children showed increases in nonstereotyped responses with age, but especially when asked "Who should . . ." or "Who can . . ." , and when elementary-school-aged (as well as preschool-aged) children were included. Girls gave significantly more nonstereotyped responses than boys, especially among older samples and when the domain was traits. Both the age and the sex effects in nonstereotyped responses were larger in more recent studies. IQ and television viewing were significantly related to forced choice scores, whereas television viewing, maternal employment, and memory for gender-stereotyped material were all significantly related to non-forced choice scores. Implications for the distinction between knowledge of stereotypes and attitudes toward stereotypes are discussed.