Gender Roles and Stereotypes

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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. Paper
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...
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