Gender Stereotypes and Bias in Child Rearing

For many years, child rearing has been a discussed topic. However, some of the most discussed topics are gender stereotyping and different types of biasing on children. According to Merriam-Webster, a stereotype is something that is, “”conforming to a fixed or general pattern.”” (Merriam-Webster, 2018) In the case of gender stereotyping, this would mean a person would conform to the gender norms that surround their own personal gender.

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These types of stereotyping and biasing can be done by parents and family members, teachers, peers, etc. Gender stereotyping has been around for many years, however there seems to be a slight shift in the way parents are raising children today. Gender stereotyping and biases are still apart of child rearing however they do seem to be declining. This paper will discuss findings from other scholars’ research to prove the point that while gender stereotyping and biasing are still apart of child rearing, they do seem to be losing potency among today’s youth.

The first research article is based on hostility attributes in children and their parents. This study was done by Nicole E. Werner in the Washington State area. She conducted a quantitative study that measured child hostility attributions compared to those of their parents. This study was published in 2012. In her findings, Ms. Werner stated, “”I expect that children who attribute hostile intent to others, and those whose parents make hostile attributions, would engage in higher levels of relational aggression in the peer group.”” (Werner, 2012) In short, if parent’s exhibit hostile behaviors, so will their children. There was also a connection found between mothers and girl children. Girls that exhibited hostile attributes normally have mothers that exhibited similar hostile attributes. (Werner, 2012) This can be argued that this behavior is a learned bias presented by parents to their children. Gender stereotypes usually state that women are not as hostile as men, however it can become a bias when this is a behavior that children are taught. They will go back to this behavior because they are biased to it and are familiar with it. While this study is not particularly dated, it does contain theories and information from other scholars dated back to the 1990s. This study does go to show that learning bias is still apart of child rearing.

The second article discusses gender stereotypes in children’s books. This research was conducted by Dr. Sharyl B. Peterson and Dr. Mary Alyce Lach, done in a qualitative manner, and was published in 1990. While this study is somewhat dated, it does show the shift in gender stereotyping in children’s books over a period of time. The purpose of this study was to see if gender stereotypes had disappeared in children’s picture books, or if they were still a problem. The methods included gathering a sample of book from 1967, 1977, and 1987. Peterson and Lach say that in the 1967 books boys made appearances more than girl characters, were more likely to be main characters, and were more active than girl characters. In the 1977 and 1987 sample, Peterson and Lach say that female characters appeared about as much as male characters, there were more female main characters, and female characters were more active. Another interesting finding is that books geared toward younger children did not seem to have a strong gender stereotype aspect. It was books that were geared to slightly older, school aged children that have the gender stereotyping problem. They do continue to make the case that picture books can and do have an effect on the gender development on children. (Peterson and Lach, 1990) These findings are encouraging. While they did think that gender stereotyping was still a problem in children’s books, the shift in the later twenty years of the sample showed that gender stereotyping was changing for the better. Because of this, it potentially had an effect on the change in gender stereotyping in young female children and their development.

The third article takes a look at parental involvement to adolescents’ resilience and male gender role and stereotyping. This research was conducted by Baoshan Zhang, Fengqing Zhao, Chengting Ju, and Yingying Ma and was published in 2014. These researchers did a quantitative study, that involved a questionnaire, of 748 students ages 11 to 16. The main focus of their research was to make connections between parental involvement and resilience, however for the purpose of this paper male gender role and stereotyping will be the only result discussed. For results in male gender role and stereotyping, the researchers found that, “”…paternal involvement directly influenced children’s male gender-role identity and indirectly influenced adolescents’ male gender-role identity by male gender-role stereotype.”” (Zhang, Zhao, Ju, and Ma, 2012) They concluded that positive father involvement led to children developing and learning more masculine gender role characteristics and stereotypes. These findings are significant because they do go to show that gender role stereotyping is still apart of childrearing. Male and female children learned these male gender roles and stereotypes because their fathers were involved, and they fit the traditional roles and gender stereotypes.

In the fourth article, it discusses gender differences in parental wishes for their children’s future. This research was conducted by Brittany M. Wittenberg, Lauren Beverung, Arya Ansari, Deborah Jacobvitz, and Nancy Hazen, and it was published in 2017. This was a quantitative study that consisted of 126 couples ranging from ages 16 to 50. The couples in this study were pregnant and expecting children. When asked about wishes for their children, everybody answered closely. The researchers categorized answers in the following categories: well-being, particular characteristics, particular goals, protection, person achievement and responsibility, dependence on the parent, and personal fulfillment. Not surprisingly, all parents answered with well wishes in all of these categories for their children. However, the researchers did find that some answers were influenced by gender role stereotypes. For example, mothers were more likely to wish for well-being and personal fulfillment while fathers more likely wished for value achievement and independence, which includes goal achievement and personal responsibility. (Wittenberg, Beverung, Ansari, Jacobvitz, and Hazen, 2017) They also concluded that the only responses that didn’t have a gender influence were wishes for parent dependence and the child’s personal relationships. In conclusion to their results, they found that preconceived notions of gender roles and stereotypes can have an effect on the prenatal wishes that parents have for their children. (Wittenberg, Beverung, Ansari, Jacobvitz, and Hazen, 2017) These findings fit the thesis of this paper almost perfectly. This study is very much up to date about childrearing, and it does show that gender role stereotypes have taken a turn when discussing the wishes for children. Granted, the stereotypes are still there, however they seem to not be as pronounced as they once were.

In the fifth and final article, language towards children is discussed. This article is written by Dr. Tasha E. Bluiett, and it was published in September 2018. Bluiett makes the case than children learn from a very early age their gender roles and identities. As early as preschool, children make gender role-based choices such as which toys to play with, what clothes to wear, etc. (Bluiett, 2018) According to Bluiett, children learn these choice making tendencies and ways of speaking from parents, media, and peers. It is almost like a domino effect. Children learn these gender stereotype ways of speaking, and they practice it on each other. Bluiett uses an example stating that little girls were pretend playing a wedding. When one asked if another male classmate could participate, one girl said no because the game was for girls only. (Bluiett, 2018) Sadly, until a change is made all around, gender role stereotypes will still continue to be a problem. This article is relevant to this topic because it shows that gender role stereotypes are still a learned behavior to children.

Gender stereotypes are still apart of child rearing, and it is still seen in children today. Girls and boys are given guidelines on how to act, what and how to say things, what to wear, what to play with, etc. It is because of child rearing ways and methods that children have these stereotypes presented to them. Child rearing is not just the job of parents. Teachers, extended family members, media, etc. are all apart of normal child rearing. However, as seen in the articles listed above, these gender roles and stereotypes have taken a decline. For example, children’s books are becoming less gender biased and are not enforcing gender role stereotypes any longer. Another example is that parents are not wanting to push gender role stereotypes or biases on their children as much anymore. This can be seen in an article above. Parents overall want their children to be happy and to depend on their parents when it is needed. While the shift in gender role stereotypes and bias has been small, it does seem that the shift will continue so that children will not have to grow up in the constraints that gender role stereotypes and bias provide.

In conclusion, gender roles, stereotypes, and biases are declining in child rearing. They are still there, but the shift to more gender neutral children rearing has started. The shift and change can only prove to be a positive change for children and our society. It will be positive because with less gender norms, children can truly be anything they want to be without fear from parents, family, or society. While it is very difficult to raise gender neutral children, we can only hope this trend continues. With new research, society changes and changes in child rearing will prove if it will continue.

References:

Bluiett, T. (2018). THE LANGUAGE OF PLAY AND GENDER-ROLE STEREOTYPES. Education,139(1), 38-42. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from http://www.projectinnovation.com/education.html

Peterson, S. B., & Lach, M. A. (1990). Gender Stereotypes in Childrens Books: Their prevalence and influence on cognitive and affective development. Gender and Education,2(2), 185-197. doi:10.1080/0954025900020204

Stereotype. (2018). Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype

Werner, N. E. (2012). Do Hostile Attribution Biases in Children and Parents Predict Relationally Aggressive Behavior? The Journal of Genetic Psychology,173(3), 221-245. doi:10.1080/00221325.2011.600357

Wittenberg, B. M., Beverung, L., Ansari, A., Jacobvitz, D., & Hazen, N. (2017). Gender Differences in Parents’ Prenatal Wishes for their Children’s Future: A Mixed-Methods Study. Journal of Child and Family Studies,26(7), 1865-1874. doi:10.1007/s10826-017-0713-9

Zhang, B., Zhao, F., Ju, C., & Ma, Y. (2014). Paternal Involvement as Protective Resource of Adolescents’ Resilience: Roles of Male Gender-Role Stereotype and Gender. Journal of Child and Family Studies,24(7), 1955-1965. doi:10.1007/s10826-014-9995-3

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