Gender Roles and Early Childhood

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Gender Roles in Early Childhood

Quentin Brackenridge
Child, Family, Society
November 15, 2010

Children learn what it means to be a boy or girl at a very early age. Identifying gender and its roles in early childhood is a vital moment in the human development. In many societies, families set different standards and expectations of what their children are to do in life. One factor that plays an important role in gender identity is a child’s exposure to the definition of what a female versus a male is. Another factor is the parents’ upbringing of the child and family traditions. As children grow and develop, the gender stereotypes they are exposed to at home are reinforced by other elements in their environment and are thus perpetuated throughout childhood and on into adolescence (Martin, Wood & Little, 1990). Children are very gullible to almost everything they hear or see during early childhood. It is almost impossible for a child to grow to adulthood without experiencing some type of gender bias. Gender roles can be defined as the public image of being a male or female that a person presents to others. Therefore it is a stated opinion of what society defines a man or woman’s role to be. The information that surrounds the child and which is internalized comes to the child within the family arena through parent-child interactions, role modeling, reinforcement for desired behaviors, and parental approval or disapproval (Santrock, 1994). When children began to experience the world that consists of their friends, school, and extracurricular activities, their ideas and beliefs are formed differently.

The mass media has a huge impact on determining the roles of men and women. In early childhood, most kids are glued to television for almost most of the day. This can be a disadvantage to the development of the gender roles. Especially when some television shows depict what a woman should do versus what a man should do. Through the media, more...
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