Gender Roles and Identity in Children

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Gender roles have always been a focused topic throughout cultural history. Theoretical and empirical work on family gender roles focuses on the process in which parents convey behavior to their children. The family unit and gender roles that are played can directly affect society. There are people who believe there is a role set for them. Traditional American culture has identified a male as the head of the house hold. He is to be considered the Breadwinner . The female is the Homemaker , and care giver.

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These roles are more functional and conservative whereas equality and or even reversed roles could be inherited, taking a more social or liberal approach. If a person believes in family structure and gender roles, will they have a happier marriage and family life? If views differ or change, could a marriage suffer or worse lead to divorce if roles aren’t being fulfilled? Although, the focus is on gender roles and the effects gender roles have on a family unit, we will also review the acceptance of untraditional relationships and norms. Keywords: Gender roles Mrs. Doubtfire Human Sexuality Analysis: A Review of Gender Roles and Family This article uses Mrs. Doubtfire, a comedy-based film that unveils gender roles but more so the frequency of gender roles. The film pushes the limits on acceptance of conversational issues within society.

When considering more conventional and or traditional gender roles, Mrs. Doubtfire explores different family dynamics. We will be able to see how Mrs. Doubtfire’s transformation in behavior and gender roles effect each member within the family and understand the effects of divorce and gender roles. Troubled that he has little access to his children, divorced Daniel Hillard hatches an elaborate plan to spend more time with his children. With help from family he dresses as an older British woman and convinces his ex-wife, Miranda to hire him as a nanny. Fathers Role Daniel is identified with the role as a father; his role as husband is secondary to him. But nevertheless his irrefutable love for his kids isn’t enough as he doesn’t embody a solid father figure. A father is a symbol of masculine and actively the leading authority figures in the family. At the start of the film, Daniel was recording a cartoon voice-over in a studio, and not long into the scene he quits his job based on differences of what children should be taught in cartoons. Although he showed compassion towards what a child should and shouldn’t learn, he made the decision to quit his job on his own. He did not think about the responsibilities of his family, being the father and head of the house hold, Daniel wasn’t living up to the traditional male gender role.

The role that he was choosing and the path that he was going down, effected his family and their dynamics, causing the children to be confused and unaware of what direction their family was headed. By not assuming the traditional role, Daniels actions were not the ideal for a functionalist to which he affected society, by not assuming is cultural role. Current gender roles stress working together in terms of child care, household responsibilities and earning money. Mothers Role As more women entered the workforce in the 20th century, decisions that once were solely the husbands began to be made by both husband and wife, together. It isn’t long into the film that we are given more clues that revel Daniel’s immaturity. Right from the start, his wife Miranda stated that due to their son’s grades he wasn’t allowed to have a birthday party. Daniel however goes behind her back and throws one anyway. Their eldest daughter Lydia finds this a bit suspect. Here is a simple example of how Miranda is displayed as the more authoritative figure in the house. Whereas Daniel on the other hand displays an adolescent boy and undermines her authority. Mrs. Doubtfire gives us an opportunity to view how gender roles comprises a significant part of the family dynamic. The dynamic here is symbolic of the gender reversal.

This occurs on large-scale in the most progressive societies in the world. Miranda is clearly the breadwinner during the marriage. This goes against the mindset that men are usually the breadwinners. Although Miranda has a high paying job, she must sacrifice time away from the children for her professional career. Daniel attempts to be a dependable caregiver for the kids while Miranda earns the majority of the family’s income. Carrying the burdens that come along with being a workaholic, Miranda becomes increasingly stressed and angry at Daniel’s repeated failed attempts at living up to her expectations as an adequate house dad. Miranda was compelled to divorce Daniel due to his lack of responsibility and direction. These decisions are all followed by the basic roles of a male and female. If both parents were to adhere to the functionalist theory and accept their gender roles, they would be helping themselves and society. Portrayed male and female roles. Women’s economic and social emancipation over the past century has become incongruent with the nuclear ”male breadwinner” family form and its traditional allocation of power, resources, and labor. (Grusec, J. E., & Hastings, P. D.) Looking at the roles within the film, Miranda is often seen as is stern. Especially when showing expression towards Daniel. She displays tendencies of male and female attitudes and behaviors.

Masculinity is a social quality that comprises a predisposition toward aggression and dominance. Miranda, the mother, in a modern independent woman role, shows loads of masculine attitude. We have also seen a normalization of divorce and of step parenting in recent years”(BENGTSON, VERN L.) Miranda was emotionally insensitive towards the divorce. Not long after, Stu, a long-lost love came into the picture, and he exemplified all the traditional male qualities, professional, handsome, wealthy, and well maintained. Rewards in the form of income, status, prestige, or power must be provided in order to induce people to carry out the work required of them and get them to prepare for and perform in roles required by society. (Parsons Talcott) Stu also showed care and consideration towards the children and Miranda. Stu, in the film could be considered as the ideal conventional male gender role. In addition, the women in the film, in itself, display a stern, uncompassionate, and aggressive attitude throughout the movie. When Daniel is at the lawyer’s office with the attorney he jokes about the matters at hand and the women in the office look at him with disdain. When Daniel speaks to his brother Frank, you can overhear his mother in the background who sounds neurotic and controlling. Traditional women are caring, compassionate and loving. The women in this movie did not display those traits especially towards Daniel when he is losing the children.

As well, you will notice that all of the bosses within the movie are males. One example of functionalism is inequality. Functionalists generally argue that a certain degree of inequality is functional for the society as a whole, and the society could not operate without a certain degree of inequality. (Parson Talcott) A closer look into gender roles. We are able to easily identify how gender roles are expressed by Daniel and Miranda during a small portion of their marriage. The gender roles carried out by the husband and wife during the marriage is unlike many traditional marriages. The gender roles between Miranda and Daniel were swapped. Daniel is initially spotted as the person poorly attempting to take on the role wives traditionally held within the household. Meanwhile, Miranda appears to be flourishing in her career and taking on the traditional male gender role with a great since of responsibility. In traditional marriages, most household responsibilities are being performed by the wife, including the cooking and cleaning. However, many women dislike this aspect of their marriage and have a tendency to feel angry about managing household responsibilities alone, if the male of the household isn’t fulfilling his duties. When harsh parental practices and poor home environments send children on negative trajectories of poor achievement and antisocial behavior. In this view, children are assumed to enter a social world that contains preexisting meanings, rules, and expectations, with the role of parents being to teach or transmit this knowledge to children.

Despite competition with other sources of influence on children, parentsincluding all primary caregivers acting in the role of parentsare regarded as the most important agents of children’s socialization, and they lay the foundations for later changes as the child interacts with the wider world outside the family. Socialization is a lifelong process that encompasses the different stages of childhood and continues throughout adulthood. (Child Development) Acceptance Furthermore, the film touches upon the homosexual and transsexual gender roles. The two homosexuals in the film, Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack, have feminine qualities. These qualities are displayed through feminine traits involving, use of hands and fingers in child-like fashions, speech with non-aggressive variations and tones, and speech with sounds of higher than normal pitches for males. Despite Frank’s raspy voice, both men speak calmly, friendly with higher pitched inflections and intonations. In regard to their bodies, they keep their hands and feet closer to their body, and they point child-like with their index fingers. The men are probably the most helpful characters in the movie because they made possible the disguise and character of Mrs. Doubtfire.

This film does not demoralize or degrade homosexuality, but instead makes it appear normal. Daniel’s mother makes no implication that she rejects Frank’s lifestyle and neither does Daniel. Both make homosexuality seem completely natural. Likewise, when Daniel tells his kids that Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack aided him, the children do not show any disregard for homosexuality. They also simply accept it. Turning Point. Cue, nanny! Mrs. Doubtfire in the purest form is a desperate father dressed as a British elderly woman, pretending to be a nanny, all to be closer to his children. For the first time, Daniel has discovered himself having to see the world through someone else’s eyes. Daniel takes on the role of the nanny, free of his personal failures and shortcomings.

He is able to create this identity from nothing, and so he does just that. It is important to remember that Mrs. Doubtfire shows the polarity in relationships, and that masculine and feminine energies exist in balance. Although, Mrs. Doubtfire makes a few adjustments along the way to that balance. First, Daniel gets the job a nanny. He has to learn to cook, clean, help with homework and be organized. In the mist of nannying, Daniel, stumbles on a program for kids, and Mrs. Doubtfire becomes a television concept that epitomizes everything that Daniel stands for. This ignites proactivity and things start to turn around for Daniel. At this time Miranda recognizes how Daniel has become a responsible man, a man with direction. Mrs. Doubtfire is a film that examines a surprising amount of insight, which portrays women and men, masculinity and femininity.

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Gender Roles and Identity in Children. (2019, Mar 10). Retrieved from