ArticlePDF Available

Do Mothers' Gender-Related Attitudes or Comments Predict Young Children's Gender Beliefs?



Objective: We tested relations among mothers' gender attitudes, mothers' comments about gender, and young children's gender-stereotyped beliefs. Design: Mothers (from mostly middle-class, European-American backgrounds) read and discussed a gender-related story to their child (N = 74, M = 64 months). Mothers' speech was coded as either endorsing or challenging gender stereotypes. Results: Mothers with gender-egalitarian attitudes used more counter-stereotypical comments. Mothers used more counter-stereotypic comments with daughters than sons. Mothers' gender attitudes predicted gender stereotyping in younger children (3–5 years) but not older children (6–7 years). However, mothers' speech did not predict children's gender stereotyping. Conclusions: Mothers' gender-related attitudes and comments may not reliably predict young children's gender-stereotyped beliefs.
PARENTING: SCIENCE AND PRACTICE Copyright © 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
October–December 2007 Volume 7 Number 4 Pages 357–366
HPAR1529-51921532-7922Parenting: Science and Practice, Vol. 7, No. 4, September 2007: pp. 1–15Parenting: Science and Practice
Do Mothers’ Gender-Related Attitudes
or Comments Predict Young Children’s
Gender Beliefs?
Predicting Children’s Gender BeliefsFRIEDMAN, LEAPER, BIGLER
Carly Kay Friedman, Campbell Leaper, and Rebecca S. Bigler
Objective. We tested relations among mothers’ gender attitudes, mothers’
comments about gender, and young children’s gender-stereotyped beliefs.
Design. Mothers (from mostly middle-class, European-American back-
grounds) read and discussed a gender-related story to their child (N = 74, M =
64 months). Mothers’ speech was coded as either endorsing or challenging
gender stereotypes. Results. Mothers with gender-egalitarian attitudes used
more counter-stereotypical comments. Mothers used more counter-
stereotypic comments with daughters than sons. Mothers’ gender attitudes
predicted gender stereotyping in younger children (3–5 years) but not older
children (6–7 years). However, mothers’ speech did not predict children’s gen-
der stereotyping. Conclusions. Mothers’ gender-related attitudes and com-
ments may not reliably predict young children’s gender-stereotyped beliefs.
Children endorse gender stereotypes concerning many traits and roles
between 3 and 7 years of age (see Martin, Ruble, & Szkrybalo, 2002). Dur-
ing this age period, mothers may be an especially influential source for
learning these beliefs (see Leaper, 2002). According to social cognitive
theory, gender socialization occurs through modeling, enactive experi-
ence, and direct tuition (Bussey & Bandura, 1999). Although many stud-
ies have examined the influence of modeling and enactive experience,
few studies have investigated direct tuition in relation to children’s gen-
der stereotyping (Friedman, Bigler, & Leaper, 2007; Friedman, Leaper, &
Bigler, 2004; Gelman, Taylor, & Nguyen, 2004). In one relevant study,
Gelman et al. (2004) observed mothers’ speech while reading a gender-
themed story to their preschool children. In general, the mothers
endorsed highly egalitarian attitudes. Consistent with their views, moth-
ers made few comments that explicitly endorsed gender stereotypes
(“Only girls can play with dolls.”). In contrast, mothers commonly used
language that implicitly stereotyped gender through references to generic
gender categories (“Girls play with dolls.”) and gender labeling (“That’s a
boy racing the car.”). Furthermore, these highly egalitarian mothers
“rarely negated children’s gender stereotypes, and in fact primarily
affirmed what children said” (Gelman et al., 2004, p. 108). Thus, gender
attitudes and gender-related comments often may be contradictory—
which may help account for the weak average association between moth-
ers’ and children’s gender beliefs. Therefore, it may be helpful to consider
interrelations among mothers’ attitudes, mothers’ speech, and children’s
stereotypes at the same time.1
In the present investigation, we classified mothers’ gender-related
references to traits, behaviors, or roles as either endorsing (i.e., stereo-
typical) or challenging (i.e., counter-stereotypical) traditional gender
norms. Additionally, we distinguished between gender-related com-
ments made about females, males, or both females and males. Mothers
may be more likely to refer to characters that are relevant to the child’s
own gender (Gelman et al., 2004). Also, parents tend to be more rigid in
their stereotypes about males than females (Leaper, 2002). Lastly, we
coded for descriptive and prescriptive comments. Whereas descriptive
comments simply call attention to an example of a stereotypic or
counter-stereotypic trait or behavior, prescriptive comments suggest
approval or disapproval.
Our major research questions were as follows: First, are mothers’ gender
beliefs correlated with their young children’s gender stereotyping? Second,
are mothers’ gender-related comments correlated with their children’s gen-
der stereotyping? Third, do mothers’ gender beliefs predict their own com-
ments about gender? Finally, do mothers’ comments mediate the
association between mothers’ and children’s gender-stereotyped beliefs?
(Testing the last question presupposed that mothers’ beliefs, mothers’ com-
ments, and children’s stereotyping are significantly intercorrelated.)
In addition to these research questions, we considered three potential
moderators. First, gender-typing pressures tend to be stronger for boys
than girls (Leaper & Friedman, 2007); therefore, mothers may make more
stereotypical comments with sons than daughters. Second, prior research
1The present research was carried out prior to the publication of Gelman et al.’s (2004)
study. It built upon Carly Friedman’s 2002 undergraduate honors thesis in psychology at
the University of Texas at Austin (Friedman, Bigler, & Leaper, 2007). Although our current
study is similar to Gelman et al.’s (2004) research in many ways, the two studies employ dif-
ferent parent attitude measures, verbal coding methods, counter-balancing procedures, and
types of analyses.
indicates a larger association between mother-child gender attitudes with
older (6-year-old and above) than younger (3- to 5-year-old) children
(Tenenbaum & Leaper, 2002); and therefore, mothers’ comments may
have more influence on older children. Finally, by counter-balancing the
order of administering the story and the attitude surveys, it is possible to
assess the effect of each on children’s beliefs as well as mothers’ beliefs
and comments.
Seventy-four children, from 3 to 7 years of age (M = 64.09 months,
SD = 18.29), participated with their mothers. The mothers were predomi-
nantly White European American (91.5%) and middle to upper-middle
class; and all resided in a California coastal city.
The stated purpose of the study was to examine parental influences on
children’s story understanding. The research occurred at a university
research laboratory in two parts: (1) Mothers and children completed sep-
arate surveys measuring their gender attitudes and (2) mothers read a
story to their child. (The order of survey and story-reading was counter-
balanced across participants.) Mothers were asked to read the story as
they normally would with their child, and to discuss the book for 5 min
after reading the story. The reading and the discussion were videotaped
for later transcription and coding. At the end, mothers were debriefed.
Mothers read and discussed with their children an illustrated book
entitled, Fun at the Farm (Leaper & Friedman, 2002). The story was written
to include 9 gender-typed and 9 cross-gender-typed representations of
traits or behaviors in girls and boys. It focused on two mixed-gender sib-
ling pairs who are cousins with one another. One pair (Jenny and David)
was gender-typed, whereas the other pair (Catherine and Michael) was
cross-gender-typed. For example, in the first part of the story, each sibling
pair is portrayed in their homes playing and doing chores that are either
gender-typed (e.g., boy playing with blocks) or cross-gender-typed (e.g.,
girl mowing the lawn).
Survey Measures
Children completed the activity subscale of the Preschool Occupation,
Activity, and Trait Attitude Measure scale (POAT-AM; based on Liben &
Bigler, 2002). Respondents were asked if they think “only boys,” “only
girls,” or “both boys and girls” should do 18 different activities (12 gender-
stereotypical and 6 neutral). Internal reliability for the measure was high
(α = .81).
Mothers completed the Pacific Attitudes Towards Gender Scale
(PATG; Vaillancourt & Leaper, 1997), which included 21 statements rated
on a 7-point scale assessing views regarding dating, family, and occupa-
tional roles; personality traits and activities; and overall gender equality.
Internal reliability on the PATG was high (α = .81).
Mothers’ Gender-Related Comments
Mothers’ gender-related comments about the story were transcribed
from the videotapes and coded. Gender-related comments were defined
as statements or questions referring to any traits, behaviors, or roles attrib-
uted to girls or boys. These gender-related comments were subsequently
coded along three dimensions: First, target refers to whether the comments
pertained to females, males, or generally both genders. Second, valence
included three categories: Stereotypic comments acknowledged or
supported stereotypic roles (“Catherine was brushing her doll.”); counter-
stereotypic comments negated a stereotype or emphasized counter-stereo-
typic roles (“Basketball is boys’ stuff and girls’ stuff.”); and neutral
gender-related comments neither supported nor negated stereotypes
(“Which chore would you rather do?”). Finally, mode refers to whether
statements were prescriptive or descriptive. Prescriptive comments explic-
itly endorsed a stereotypic or counter-stereotypic gender role (“I like that
the girl is doing the dishes.”), whereas descriptive comments only called
attention to a stereotypic or counter-stereotypic gender role (“Those girls
are playing ball.”). The inter-coder reliability was high across three
researchers based on a comparison of 14 transcripts (minimum κ = .70).
Effects of Child Gender, Child Age, and Survey Order on Outcome
Children’s gender stereotyping. In the first set of analyses, we carried out
2 (child gender) × 2 (child age level: 3- to 5-year-olds versus 6- to 7-year-olds)
× 2 (survey order) ANOVAs to explore if any of these factors were related
to children’s gender stereotyping on the POAT. Children scored lower on
gender stereotyping if they were surveyed after the story rather than
before the story, F(1, 66) = 8.31, η2 = .11, p <.01. However, the order effect
was qualified by two interactions. First, there was a significant Survey
Order X Child Age Level interaction, F(1, 66) = 6.16, η2 = .09, p = .02.
Among older children, those who were surveyed after reading the story
indicated less stereotyping than those surveyed before the story, F(1, 32)
= 15.04, η2 = .32, p <.01. Among younger children, there was no difference
in POAT scores between those surveyed after the story and those sur-
veyed before the story, F(1, 34) < 1, ns. In addition, there was a marginal
Survey Order × Child Gender interaction, F(1, 66) = 3.03, η2 = .04, p = .09.
Boys demonstrated significantly lower stereotyping if surveyed after the
story (M = .14, SD = .20) than before the story (M = .38, SD = .28), F(1, 30)
= 9.06, η2 = .23, p <.01. In contrast, there was no difference in POAT scores
between girls who were surveyed after (M = .24, SD = .20) versus those
who were surveyed before the story (M = .29, SD = .22), F(1, 36) < 1, ns.
Earlier intervention studies have demonstrated that presenting
counter-stereotypical stories can reduce children’s gender stereotypes
(e.g., Flerx, Fidler, & Rogers, 1976). In our study, the story had an imme-
diate effect only for older children and for boys. First, older children may
have been influenced more due to their greater cognitive flexibility (see
Martin et al., 2002). Boys may have been more responsive to this influence
because as some studies suggest boys tend to be more concerned
with gender stereotypes than are girls (see Leaper & Friedman, 2007).
Although some readers may find it encouraging that a story could reduce
children’s gender stereotyping, this type of effect is usually weak and
transitory (see Bigler, 1999).
Mothers’ gender attitudes. The same 3-way ANOVA design previously
described was used with mothers’ mean PATG score. Results indicated a
significant Child gender × Age level interaction, F(1, 65) = 6.00, η2 = .08,
p = .02. Simple effects tests revealed that mothers of older daughters had
significantly more egalitarian attitudes than did either mothers of older
sons or mothers of younger daughters; but mothers of younger sons did
not significantly differ from the other three groups.
Mothers’ gender-related comments. We performed a mixed-design ANOVA
with survey order, child gender, and child age level as between-group
factors and mode of remark (prescriptive versus descriptive), valence of
remark (stereotypic versus counter-stereotypic), and target (females ver-
sus males versus general) as repeated measures. Overall, descriptive
comments (M = 23.77, SD = 13.17) were more common than prescriptive
comments (M = 6.41, SD = 5.79), F(1, 66) = 154.13, η2 = .70, p < .01. In addition,
counter-stereotypical comments (M = 18.26, SD = 10.27) were more com-
mon than stereotypical comments (M = 11.92, SD = 8.17), F(1, 66) =
37.69, η2 = .36, p < .01.
A target main effect also occurred, F(2, 66) = 12.86, η2 = .16, p < .001, but
it was qualified in a Target × Gender interaction, F(2, 66) = 13.89, η2 = .17, p <
.001. Pairwise comparison tests indicated that mothers were more likely
to refer to the child’s own gender. This meant mothers with daughters
made more comments about females than males; and mothers with sons
made more comments about males than females (all ps <.05). But the tar-
get effect was further qualified by a 4-way Speech Mode × Valence × Tar-
get × Child Gender interaction, F(2, 66) = 3.55, η2 = .05, p <.05. Follow-up
pairwise comparisons indicated the following pattern: Among mothers of
daughters, there was a target gender difference for descriptive counter-
stereotypical comments — which were more commonly about females
than males (p <.001). In contrast, among mothers of sons, there was a tar-
get gender difference for descriptive stereotypical comments; they were
more frequently about males than females (p <.05). Thus, when making
descriptive comments about gender roles, mothers tended to highlight
counter-stereotypical female roles with daughters and stereotypical male
roles with sons.
Many of our findings are consistent with those reported by Gelman
et al. (2004). In both studies, mothers made few explicit statements
about gender roles, but they commonly did make generic statements
about gender. Both studies also found that mothers made more refer-
ences to counter-stereotypical story content. Given that counter-
stereotypical images are unusual in most children’s books, perhaps
mothers were especially likely to take notice of them. Like Gelman
et al. (2004), we also found that mothers referenced characters that
matched their child’s own gender. Consistent with prior reports that
parents tend to allow more gender-role flexibility in daughters than
sons (see Leaper, 2002), we also found mothers used more counter-ste-
reotypical speech with daughters and used more stereotypical speech
with sons.
Relations Among Variables
One of the unique contributions of our study was to test how well chil-
dren’s gender beliefs, mothers’ gender beliefs, and mothers’ gender-
stereotypical or counter-stereotypical speech were interrelated.
Relations between children’s and mothers’ gender beliefs. Children’s gen-
der stereotypes and mothers’ gender attitudes were not significantly
correlated (r = .17). We carried out additional analyses to test if the corre-
lations differed by child gender or child age. Age level — but not gender —
moderated the associations: There was a significant correlation between
mothers’ and children’s gender beliefs among younger children, r (37) =
.38, p < .05, but not among older children, r (36) = .03, ns. Although this
pattern is contrary to the age-related differences indicated in Tenenbaum
and Leaper’s (2002) meta-analysis, it is consistent with the idea that extra-
familial influences — such as peers and the media — may increasingly
shape children’s gender beliefs as they get older (see Leaper & Friedman,
Relations between children’s gender stereotypes and mothers’ speech. There
were no significant correlations between children’s gender stereotypes
and either mothers’ total stereotypical comments (r = .02) or total
counter-stereotypical comments (r = .03). When more specific speech
codes were analyzed, this also included mothers’ prescriptive stereo-
typical comments (r = .07), descriptive stereotypical comments (r = .01),
prescriptive counter-stereotypical comments (r = .02), and descriptive
counter-stereotypical comments (r = .04). Additional tests indicated no
association when either child gender or age level was taken into
account. Furthermore, testing a quadratic function did not affect the
Relations between mothers’ gender attitudes and mothers’ speech. Mothers’
gender attitudes were unrelated to either their total stereotypical (r =
.05) or total counter-stereotypical (r = .03) comments. Next, we distin-
guished between comments that were either prescriptive or descriptive.
Mothers’ traditional gender attitudes were negatively correlated with
their prescriptive counter-stereotypical comments (r = .24, p <.05), and
positively correlated with their descriptive counter-stereotypical com-
ments at a marginal level (r = .21, p <.08). But mothers’ attitudes were
unrelated to their prescriptive stereotypical comments (r = .14) or
descriptive stereotypical comments (r = .02).
We found a small correlation between younger (but not older) chil-
dren’s gender stereotypes and mothers’ gender attitudes. We also
observed a small correlation between mothers’ gender attitudes and
counter-stereotypic speech. However, mothers’ comments did not predict
children’s gender stereotyping. Therefore, the idea that mothers’ speech
might mediate the association between mothers’ attitudes and children’s
stereotyping was not supported. Perhaps this relationship could be identi-
fied in future studies through the use of a different methodology.
When a significant association between mothers’ gender attitudes and
behavior was found, it was specifically with regard to gender-egalitarian
mothers’ greater use of prescriptive counter-stereotypical speech. Elicit-
ing counter-stereotypical comments may have depended largely on our
presentation of counter-stereotypical and stereotypical story content. In
most children’s everyday lives, however, this would be relatively uncom-
mon. It is especially rare for children to see boys demonstrating feminine-
stereotyped traits or roles. In contrast, gender stereotyped models prolif-
erate in the media, children’s peer groups, and other sources (Leaper &
Friedman, 2007). Mothers’ influence on children’s gender stereotyping
may simply pale compared to the impact of peers and the media. In addi-
tion, mothers generally do not challenge gender stereotyping in these
contexts. Lastly, it appears that gender labeling alone — even in neutral
statements — is a cause of gender stereotyping among children (Bigler &
Liben, 2007). Possibly for these and other reasons, there is a low-to-negli-
gible average correspondence between mothers’ and young children’s
gender beliefs (Tenenbaum & Leaper, 2002). At the same time, if parents
provide clear and consistent messages, perhaps they could directly influ-
ence young children’s gender stereotyping (see Bigler & Liben, 2007). In
addition, factors such as childrearing style (e.g., Ex & Janssens, 1998) and
children’s identification with their parents (e.g., Sinclair, Dunn, & Lowery,
2005) may moderate how strongly children adopt their parents’ attitudes.
Carly Kay Friedman, Department of Psychology, University of California
Santa Cruz, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. E-mail: cam@ Campbell Leaper is at University of California Santa Cruz.
Rebecca S. Bigler is at University of Texas at Austin.
The research was supported by a National Science Foundation fellowship
to the first author at the University of California Santa Cruz; and by
grants from the University of California Santa Cruz Social Sciences
Division and Academic Senate to the second author. The authors thank
the families who participated in the study for their time and cooperation.
Preliminary findings were presented at the Gender Development
Research Conference, San Francisco, April 2004.
Bigler, R. S. (1999). Psychological interventions designed to counter sexism in children:
Empirical limitations and theoretical foundations. In W. B. J. Swann, & J. H. Langlois
(Eds.), Sexism and Stereotypes in Modern Society: The Gender Science of Janet Taylor Spence.
(pp. 129–151). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Bigler, R. S., & Liben, L. S. (2007). Developmental intergroup theory: Explaining and reduc-
ing children’s social stereotyping and prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological Science,
16, 162–166.
Brooks-Gunn, J. (1986). The relationship of maternal beliefs about sex typing to maternal
and young children’s behavior. Sex Roles, 14, 21–35.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differ-
entiation. Psychological Review, 106, 676–713.
Ex, C. T. G. M., & Janssens, J. M. A. M. (1998). Maternal influences on daughters’ gender role
attitudes. Sex Roles, 38, 171–186.
Flerx, V. C., Fidler, D. S., & Rogers, R. W. (1976). Sex role stereotypes: Developmental
aspects and early intervention. Child Development, 47, 998–1007.
Friedman, C. K., Bigler, R. S., & Leaper, C. (2007). Mothers’ Guidance of Young Children’s Gen-
der Attitudes During Shared Storybook Reading. Manuscript in preparation.
Friedman, C. K., Leaper, C., & Bigler, R. S. (2004, April). The Influence of Parental Discussion
on Children’s Gender Stereotyping. Presentation at the Gender Development Research
Conference, San Francisco.
Gelman, S., Taylor, M., & Nguyen, S.P. (2004). Mother-child conversations about gender.
Monographs of the Society for Research in Children Development, 69(1).
Goodnow, J. (1997). Parenting and the transmission and internalization of values: From
social-cultural perspectives to within-family analyses. In J.E. Grusec & L. Kuczynski
(Eds.), Parenting and Children’s Internalization of Values: A Handbook of Contemporary Theory
(pp. 333–361). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Leaper, C. (2002). Parenting girls and boys. In M. H. Bornstein, Handbook of Parenting:
Children and Parenting (2nd ed., Volume 1, pp. 189–225). Mahwah, NJ, US: Erlbaum.
Leaper, C., & Bigler, R. S. (2004). Gendered language and sexist thought. Monographs of the
Society for Research in Child Development, 69(1), 128–142.
Leaper, C., & Friedman, C. K. (2002). Fun at the Farm. Unpublished document available from
the authors.
Leaper, C., & Friedman, C.K. (2007). The socialization of gender. In J. Grusec & P. Hastings
(Eds.), The Handbook of Socialization: Theory and Research (pp. 561–587). New York:
Liben, L. S., & Bigler, R. S. (2002). The developmental course of gender differentiation: Con-
ceptualizing, measuring, and evaluating constructs and pathways. Monographs of the
Society for Research in Child Development, 67(2).
Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender devel-
opment. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 903–933.
Sinclair, S., Dunn, E., & Lowery, B. S. (2005). The relationship between parental racial attitudes
and children’s implicit prejudice. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 283–289.
Tenenbaum, H. R., & Leaper, C. (2002). Are parents’ gender schemas related to their
children’s gender-related cognitions?: A meta analysis. Developmental Psychology, 38,
Vaillancourt, T., & Leaper, C. (1997). Pacific Attitudes Toward Gender (PATG) Scale. Retrieved
Weitzman, N., Birns, B., & Friend, R. (1985). Traditional and nontraditional mothers’ com-
munication with their daughters and sons. Child Development, 56, 894–898.
... Despite these patterns, there is some indication that mothers take a different approach with counter-stereotypical material. For example, Friedman, Leaper, and Bigler (2007) assigned mothers of 3-to 7-year-old children to read a narrative storybook, which featured both stereotypical events (e.g., boys playing with blocks) and counter-stereotypical events (e.g., girls mowing the lawn). Results indicated that mothers were more likely to challenge (vs. ...
... In light of this possibility, it is worth noting that the storybooks used in all three of these previous studies featured gendered images of fictional characters, and mothers were encouraged by the researchers to evaluate those images. Friedman et al. (2007) and Gelman et al. (2004) did so by embedding their stories with question prompts referencing gendered aspects of the images (e.g., "Who can play with dolls?"), whereas Endendijk et al. (2014) did so by verbally instructing mothers to discuss the images (i.e., "Talk to both children about what you see in the pictures"). As a result, mothers tended to express their attitudes about gender by evaluating the characteristics of fictional characters rather than the characteristics of their own children. ...
... Nevertheless, correlation analyses aligned with our predictions, such that mothers' encouraging comments positively predicted children's interest in STEM careers and toys, and mothers' discouraging comments negatively predicted children's interest in HEED careers. These results stand in contrast to Friedman et al. (2007), who found no association between mothers' comments and children's attitudes. We attribute this discrepant finding to the design of our storybook, which featured question prompts that directly referenced children's career interests. ...
While visiting a science museum, mothers (N = 125) and their 4- to 7-year-old children were recruited to read one of four versions of an educational storybook. These storybooks detailed either male-dominated careers (i.e., STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or female-dominated careers (i.e., HEED: health, early education, and domestic roles), and they featured either a male protagonist or a female protagonist. Results indicated that the STEM storybook led mothers to perceive STEM careers as more suitable for their children, and it led girls to express more interest in STEM careers. However, there was some indication that mothers directed more discouraging comments toward their children (e.g., “You don’t like that”) while reading the HEED storybook, especially when it featured a male protagonist. This version also led boys to express less interest in HEED careers. These results suggest that exposure to stories with stereotype-defying characters can benefit girls, yet sometimes backfire among boys. Given the context of the study (i.e., a science museum), it remains possible that these results only apply to children from relatively advantaged backgrounds (i.e., higher family income and education). Accordingly, future research will need to examine whether these results differ among children from less advantaged backgrounds.
... books designed for that purpose are successful in eliciting different types of gender talk in parents (DeLoache et al., 1987;Endendijk et al., 2014;Friedman et al., 2007;Gelman et al., 2004). These studies revealed that parents sometimes convey gender messages to their children in direct ways through comments on pictures that either confirm or reject gender stereotypes, but more so in implicit ways like using gender labels for gender-neutral figures showing stereotypical behavior and evaluating stereotypical and contrastereotypical activities in a positive or negative manner (e.g., "Look, these girls are cooking, that's nice!"). ...
... This may lead family members to communicate more stereotypical gender messages and to respond more stereotypically to others' gender remarks when the conversation involves a boy. Indeed, mothers have been found to make fewer counter-stereotypical comments with their sons than with their daughters (Friedman et al., 2007). Also, in our previous study, we found that fathers who discussed the picture book with their two sons communicated more implicit stereotypical messages about gender than fathers who discussed the book with two daughters or with a daughter and a son (Endendijk et al., 2014). ...
Full-text available
The goal of the present study was to unravel the unique contributions of fathers, mothers, and preschoolers to conversations about gender during picture book reading, as well as examining the relationship between parents' gender messages and their stereotypes. The sample consisted of 142 families. During a home visit, triadic parent-child Gender Stereotypes Picture Book reading was filmed to code implicit and explicit forms of gender talk. A computer task (implicit attitudes) and questionnaire (explicit attitudes) were used to measure parents' gender stereotypes. As expected, the gender picture book evoked questions and statements about gender (mostly from mothers). Regarding implicit forms of gender talk (i.e., gender labeling and evaluating activities), we found no structural differences between the three family members in terms of expressing stereotypical or contra-stereotypical ideas. There were also no differences between boys and girls in (receiving and expressing) implicit gender messages about the pictures. Regarding conversations that included explicit forms of gender talk, we found a pattern in which children started most often with a stereotypical comment, followed by questions (mostly mothers), confirmations, and negations by the parents. It was remarkable that children frequently received mixed messages in response to their stereotypical comments, and that children tended to stick to their stereotypical opinion even when challenged by their parents. Parents' gender messages were not structurally related to their gender stereotypes. This study shows that children are a driving force of family conversations about gender, and reveals messiness in the gender messages children receive from their parents. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... Correlational studies have demonstrated that boys engage in more exploratory play with objects such as blocks, and girls show a preference for symbolic play, for instance playing with dolls (Suizzo & Bornstein, 2006;Fagot, 1974). Though more research is needed, given the importance of play in children's social and cognitive development, play that is based around narrowly defined gender expectations may reinforce traditional gender norms and attitudes (Friedman et al., 2007) and limit exposure to, and positive experiences with, gender atypical activities (Reilly & Neumann, 2013). ...
Full-text available
Introduction : Today’s adolescents are growing up in a unique sociocultural climate in which gender issues are highly prominent. Alongside new ways of understanding gender identity, there are persistent gender disparities in social, health and mental health outcomes despite increasingly egalitarian views and a significant public focus on sexual assault and gender-based violence. Given gender-differentiated outcomes emerge during adolescence, it is critical to revisit factors influencing adolescent gender development. It has been argued that gendered parenting, reflected in differences in parenting attitudes and behaviors directed towards boys and girls, influences gender development. While numerous studies have examined gendered parenting with children, there has been no previous synthesis of gendered parenting of adolescents. Method : The current narrative review presents an overview of research into gendered parenting of adolescents, including parental modelling, gendered environments, and specific parenting practices, and draws together the available research on how it impacts adolescents. Gendered parenting is also examined in the context of LGBTQI + and gender non-conforming adolescents. Results : There is limited research investigating the presence of gendered parenting of adolescents, and even less assessing its impact on adolescent psychosocial outcomes. The available literature suggests that there may be effects of gendered parenting on adolescents, particularly on their gender role attitudes and gender-typed behaviors. Conclusions : Future work is needed to better understand how gendered parenting of adolescents manifests in the family home. In addition, research is needed to examine the longitudinal impact of gendered parenting, particularly within non-traditional families, and across a range of sociocultural contexts.
... Notably, a meta-analysis [18] examined 43 studies investigating the link between parents' and children's gender schemas, and found that parents' gender-related attitudes about others were modestly associated with their children's (r between 0.1 and 0.2). While the measures used, and psychological constructs assessed, in previous work vary considerably (see [19] for a review on measurement differences), past work generally indicates that parents may influence their children's thinking about gender [18][19][20]; we were thus interested in seeing whether we would obtain a similar result when examining gender diverse adolescents' stereotype endorsements. ...
Full-text available
Previous work has documented adolescents' gender stereotype endorsement, or the extent to which one believes men or women should embody distinct traits. However, understanding of gender stereotype endorsement in gender diverse adolescents-those who identify as transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender nonconforming-is limited. Gender diverse adolescents' experiences with gender raise the question of whether they endorse gender stereotypes with the same frequency as cisgender adolescents. In this study, we investigated three primary research questions: (1) if gender diverse (N = 144) and cisgender (N = 174) adolescents (13-17 years) and their parents (N = 143 parents of gender diverse adolescents, N = 160 parents of cisgender adolescents) endorse gender stereotypes; (2) whether these groups differed from one another in their endorsement of gender stereotypes; and (3) whether parents' gender stereotyping was related to either their adolescents' stereotyping and/or their adolescents' predictions of their parents' stereotyping. We found (1) that participants showed low amounts of stereotyping; (2) there were no significant differences between gender stereotype endorsement in gender diverse and cisgender adolescents (or between their parents), though parents endorsed stereotypes slightly less than adolescents; and (3) there was a small positive association between adolescents' stereotyping and their parents' gender stereotyping. We discuss the limitations of our methods, and the possibility that rates of explicit stereotype endorsement may be changing over time.
... Shared book reading is a common context in many families where informal learning for young children occurs with their parents (Scholastic Inc, 2016). More specifically, researchers have highlighted how parents' book reading with preschoolage children was a means for discussing and learning complex science concepts (e.g., Kelemen et al., 2014;Shirefley et al., 2020) and imparting lessons about gender roles (e.g., Friedman et al., 2007;Endendijk et al., 2014). However, no prior work has considered how conversations during shared reading may vary with the type of science book (life vs. physical) or with both mothers and fathers. ...
Full-text available
Introduction In prior studies conducted in the United States, parents’ gender-differentiated encouragement of science predicted children’s later science motivation. Most of this research has focused on older children or teens and only looked at the impact of mothers. However, accumulating evidence suggests that gender-differentiated encouragement of science interest may begin in early childhood. Moreover, fathers may be more likely than mothers to treat sons and daughters differently in science-learning contexts. Methods We examined 50 United States families with both a mother and a father (82% White; 98% with at least some college education) and either a daughter or a son (48–83 months; M = 62, SD = 9). On separate visits, each parent reads two books with their child. One was about life science and the other was about physical science. We coded parents’ science-related talk during these interactions. Results and Conclusion In contrast to our predictions, parents used higher proportions of science talk with daughters than sons, including higher average rates of overall science talk and specific types of science talk (e.g., science explanations, science-related personal connections, and science-learning talk). Moreover, most of the child gender effects occurred while reading the physical science books. Book topic and parent gender moderated some additional patterns. Book reading is discussed as a potential context for mitigating socialization experiences that traditionally disfavor girls’ interest in physical science.
... These explicit gendered messages from parents are uncommon in societies that hold gender equality in high regard, such as west-European countries, so that subtle and unconsciously transmitted gender messages are more common than explicit ones ( Mesman & Groeneveld, 2017 ). Several studies have used book reading tasks to study subtle parental gender talk while discussing pictures displaying gendered activities (both stereotypical and counter-stereotypical; DeLoache, Cassidy, & Carpenter, 1987 ;Endendijk et al., 2014 ;Friedman, Leaper, & Bigler, 2007 ;Gelman et al., 2004 ). For instance, parents used stereotypical gender labels to describe gender-neutral characters involved in feminine or masculine activities (e.g., "he is throwing snowballs" or "she is cooking" about gender-neutral characters; DeLoache et al., 1987 ;Endendijk et al., 2014 ). ...
Full-text available
This study examines the links between parents’ religiosity, the way parents implicitly talk about gender with their preschoolers, and children's gender attitudes and preferences. Additionally, we focused on the degree to which parents’ gender talk mediates the relation between religiosity and children's gender attitudes and preferences. In a sample of 134 families (81 in which at least 1 parent was Christian) with a child aged 4-6 years, we observed both parents’ gender talk while discussing the Gender Stereotypes Picture Book with their child. Fathers and mothers filled out a questionnaire to examine the importance of religion in their daily life and children were interviewed about their gender stereotypical attitudes and personal preferences for gender-typed occupations. Our study revealed that when parents are more religious, their children have more stereotypical gender attitudes. Although we found no significant mediation, we did find evidence for a specific role of (religious) fathers when it comes to communicating gender messages. That is, parents’ level of religiosity was positively related to fathers’, but not to mothers’ gender talk. Additionally, only fathers’ gender talk was positively associated with their children's gender attitudes. Our results illustrate the unique role fathers can play in children's gender development.
Toward illuminating the family ecology of gender development, we focus on the parent-child, interparental, and sibling subsystems, examining their influences on youth gender development across childhood and adolescence. We discuss structural factors, such as sibling and couple sex constellation, but focus primarily on family members’ roles as interaction partners, models of gendered behaviors, and providers of information and opportunities pertaining to gender, all of which may influence the many domains of youth gender development. We ground our discussion in family systems and cultural ecological frameworks, which led us to interpret existing evidence in terms of the adaptive, self-organizing nature of families, and the embeddedness of youth gender development and family gender socialization in gender norms beyond the family including sociocultural factors and economic conditions.KeywordsGenderGender socializationFamily processesGender development
Gender differences in physical aggression across early and middle childhood have been reliably established, with boys engaging in physical aggression more often than girls. The social information processing (SIP) model is an empirically-supported model for explaining physical aggression in males. However, it remains unclear the extent to which this model applies to females, especially given that girls are more likely to engage in relational aggression than physical aggression. The purpose of the current review is to examine the applicability of the SIP model to relational aggression in girls, using gender-schema and social-cognitive theories of gender development to inform our understanding of how gender socialization processes influence the development of SIP skills and displays of aggression. We argue that though a gender-linked version of the SIP model provides compelling theoretical predictions of when and why girls will engage in relationally aggressive behavior, empirical evidence in support of this model is mixed. After reviewing empirical literature in this area and noting important limitations such as reliance on self-report measures in assessing SIP, we review existing evidence on SIP-focused interventions for physical and relational aggression and discuss their applicability to males and females. We conclude the paper by discussing limitations and future directions in this area.
Full-text available
This study investigates how perceived occupational knowledge, gender stereotypes, and pressure to conform to gender norms influence children’s career interests in a sample of fourth and fifth grade children (n = 178, Mage = 9.78 years, 46.6% girls). Children were interested in and perceived that they knew more about own gender dominated occupations, compared to other gender dominated occupations. Gender moderated the effect of gender conformity pressure and gender stereotypes on interest in female-dominated but not male-dominated occupations. Boys were less interested in female-dominated occupations when they felt pressure to conform to gender norms and held more stereotypical beliefs about those occupations. These results suggest that perceived occupational knowledge is an important, yet overlooked, factor in understanding gender differences in children’s occupational interests.
Evidence exists that people's brains respond differently to stimuli that violate social expectations. However, there are inconsistencies between studies in the event-related potentials (ERP) on which differential brain responses are found, as well as in the direction of the differences. Therefore, the current paper examined which of the two most frequently used tasks, the Impression Formation Task (IFT) or Implicit Association Test (IAT), provided more robust ERP components in response to the violation of gendered expectations. Both IFT and IAT paradigms were administered in a counter-balanced way among 25 young adults (age 22-31, 56% male), while brain activity was assessed with electroencephalography. The IFT and IAT specifically measured the violation of gendered expectations with regard to toy preferences and behavioral tendencies of young children. The results showed that both tasks were able to elicit relevant ERP components. Yet, the IFT evoked ERP effects of the violation of gendered expectations on all but one of the selected ERP components; the P1, N1, and LPP. The IAT only elicited different P3 amplitudes when expectations were violated. We recommend the use of IFT paradigms when studying neural processes underlying the violation of social expectations.
Full-text available
The primary purpose of this chapter is to review the limitations that characterize previous interventions aimed at changing children's sex-typed beliefs and to argue that the failure to design more effective interventions is due, in large part, to the lack of breadth and sophistication in the theoretical models on which intervention strategies are based. The author begins this chapter with a discussion of the goals and methods of intervention and a review of the types of limitations that characterize empirical data from extant intervention studies. Next, several of the theoretical assumptions that underline the research on countering sexism in children is discussed. Finally, the author makes several specific suggestions for expanding the theoretical models on which to base the development of additional intervention strategies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Full-text available
Reviews theory and research on gender development from infancy into adolescence. In the first part of the chapter, social-structural, social-interactive, cognitive-motivational, and biological influences on gender development are explained. These processes are subsequently used to explain gender-related variations in the following areas: (1) gender self-concepts, stereotypes, and attitudes; (2) gender-typed play; (3) sports; (4) social interaction and social norms; (5) academic motivation and achievement; and (6) household labor. The socialization of gender-related variations in these areas both reflects and perpetuates gender divisions and inequalities in the larger society. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Social stereotyping and prejudice are intriguing phenomena from the standpoint of theory and, in addition, constitute pressing societal problems. Because stereotyping and prejudice emerge in early childhood, developmental research on causal mechanisms is critical for understanding and controlling stereotyping and prejudice. Such work forms the basis of a new theoretical model, developmental intergroup theory (DIT), which addresses the causal ingredients of stereotyping and prejudice. The work suggests that biases may be largely under environmental control and thus might be shaped via educational, social, and legal policies.
This study concerns the gender role attitudes ofgirls. These attitudes included their ideas onmotherhood as well as their ideas on female roles ingeneral. We examined whether the relations betweenmothers' employment status and their level of education,and daughters' gender role attitudes were mediated bymothers' own gender role attitudes and child-rearingstyle. In this study, 165 adolescent girls and their mothers participated. Overall, the datademonstrate the importance of mothers in the developmentof daughters' gender role attitudes. A mother'schild-rearing style as well as her own gender role attitudes do influence the gender roleattitudes a daughter develops. Level of education andmothers' employment have indirect effects.
The purpose of this study is to determine whether mothers communicate differently with their daughters and sons, and whether maternal attitudes toward sex roles affect their behavior. Mothers who express contrasting attitudes toward sex roles were classified as "traditional" or "nontraditional" on the basis of their responses to Spence and Helmreich's Attitudes toward Women Scale. Maternal communication with 2½-3½-year-old children was analyzed for those characteristics of language shown to be instrumental in children's cognitive development and that could contribute to the socialization of sex-role stereotypes. These language variables were evaluated during story reading, sorting, and free-play tasks that included both stereotypically feminine and stereotypically masculine content. The results revealed significant differences between mothers' speech to daughters and sons. Males consistently received more verbal stimulation of the type thought to facilitate cognitive development. Differential treatment of girls and boys was lessened but not eliminated by nontraditional mothers.
The focus of this chapter is on the usefulness of remembering that parenting and development always occur in a context larger than the family unit. The chapter begins with a background section that introduces social-cultural perspectives, outlining their points of overlap and difference and the reasons for grouping them under the term "socio-cultural." The sections that follow concentrate in turn on proposals that stem from social-cultural perspectives. The first of these takes up the question: Where shall we look when we wish to study the emergence of values? What content areas shall we consider? The second considers proposals related to the nature of "internalization," with particular attention given to alternatives to its definition as the conversion of external into internal controls. The third concentrates on proposals related to the nature of transmission. In essence, the social-cultural perspectives frame questions about parental strategies in terms of the question, What conditions are children, or newcomers to a group at any age, likely to encounter? More specifically, the emphasis falls on the likelihood and the consequences of encountering values that (a) are tagged for their relative importance and their negotiability, (b) compete with one another, and (c) are expressed—often ambiguously—in ways ranging from the verbal statement of a principle to the involvement of the child or newcomer, without comment, in everyday routines that other people also follow. The effects of parental strategies, or of any other source of values, then stem from the extent to which they involve these general conditions. The aim is to lay out these proposals and then to indicate how they might be translated into within-family research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Possible links between maternal beliefs about children's sex-typed behavior and familial characteristics, mothers' interactions with their young children, and children's cognitive functioning were explored. One hundred and thirty-two mothers and their two-year-olds were seen; familial social class, birth order, and child gender were selection-criterion variables. Sex-typed beliefs were assessed by asking mothers to rate a number of qualities and interests as to whether or not each was more likely to occur in or be characteristic of boys or of girls, or was equally likely to be characteristic of boys and girls. Mothers rated qualities for two different age periods—toddlerhood and middle childhood. Mothers and toddlers were observed in a free play setting for 20 min. Responsivity and type of behavior emitted were assessed. The Bayley Scale of Infant Intelligence was given at 24 months. The findings were as follows: First, gender and social class were related to maternal beliefs about sex-typed characteristics. Second, maternal sex-typed beliefs were negatively related to active toy play and distal interaction, with this relationship significant for daughters but not sons. Third, daughters of low sex-typed mothers were more responsive and more likely to seek comfort than daughters of high sex-typed mothers. Fourth, daughters of mothers who had strong sex-typed beliefs had lower IQ scores at 24 months than did daughters of mothers with beliefs less strong; this relationship was not found for sons. Research on cross-sex behavior and enhanced cognitive functioning was reviewed as it relates to these findings.
Although many researchers assume that implicit racial attitudes develop via exposure to prejudicial socializing agents (e.g., parents, peers, and the media) starting in childhood, there is a dearth of research on implicit attitudes in children. This study looks at the effect of one socializing agent—parents—on children’s or implicit racial prejudice. Specifically, we examine Allport’s (1954) contention that children’s identification with their parents moderates the intergenerational transmission of prejudice. Fourth- and fifth-grade children completed measures of implicit and explicit pro-White/anti-Black prejudice, as well as a survey assessing child–parent identification. Parents completed a survey that measured their attitudes toward Blacks. As hypothesized, we found greater correspondence between parents’ prejudice and children’s prejudice among children who were highly identified with their parents than less identified children.
A total of 122 children participated in 2 experiments that examined the utility of sumbolic modeling stimuli in modifying sex role stereotypes. Results disclosed that, while some aspects of sex role stereotypes are present at age 3, other aspects are acquired between the third and fourth year of life. Additionally, males were found to exhibit more stereotyped responses than females. As predicted, brief presentations of illustrated stories involving egalitarian sex role models reduced stereotypic thinking. Interaction effects revealed that an egalitarian literature presentation was more effective at age 5 than age 4 and more effective for females than males. Finally, egalitarian symbolic models in films p-oduced more enduring attitude change on several measures than similar models in picture books.