How do children learn
about gender? How do they learn gender stereotypes? If you understand
this process, you may be able to help parents understand how they teach
their children about being male and female. You may be able to help them
change the way they teach about gender, if they want to change.
Parents teach with rewards and discipline. They
might praise girls and punish or discourage boys for the same thing. That
is one way to create gender stereotypes. For example: Mom might praise
her daughter when she picks flowers for her, but she might be upset with
her son for doing the same thing.
Parents teach by spending time with their children. Children
see what their parents do. Children learn when they try to imitate their
parents. For example: Children who watch their father do the dishes many
times may think that doing the dishes is a male activity. On the other
hand, children in single-parent families see their mother or father doing
all the chores. Those children usually learn that males and females can
do similar tasks.
Parents teach by telling their children what they expect from them.
Parents may expect different things from their sons and daughters. That
supports gender stereotypes. For example: Parents might expect their son
to do well in math, and they expect their daughter to do well in arts
Parents teach by giving the children chores. Parents may give
different chores to sons and daughters based on their gender. For example:
Boys take out the garbage, and girls do the dishes.
Parents teach through their comments. Parents might tell their
children that only males or females do/say certain things. For example:
Mom might say, “I can’t fix the car, that’s your dad’s
Siblings are models. Children
often copy their siblings’ actions and comments—especially
older siblings. And brothers and sisters often tell each other what to
say or do. In fact, children with siblings tend to have more gender stereotypes
than only children. For example: Sister tells brother, “That looks
like a girl’s jacket.” Brother will probably resist wearing
the jacket in the future.
Siblings teach each other how to do things and how to act in certain
situations. For example: When children are playing house, the older
brother tells his younger brother what mommies and daddies do.
The influences of friends and children
of the same age
Friends are models. Just
like siblings, friends have an effect on children’s behaviors and
views. Some friends may teach gender stereotypes. Other friends may show
gender equality. For example: If most of the girls like to wear dresses
to school, the others may want to do the same thing. If most of the boys
play soccer, the other boys may learn to do that.
Friends say when they think things are right or wrong. Children
reward or punish each other’s actions and comments. For example:
If girl wears “boy clothes,” her friends might make fun of
her and tell her she looks like a boy. Another friend might say that girls
and boys should get all the same chances.
Friends often play with children of the same gender. Young children
tend to play with same-sex children. That lasts until the early adolescent
years. For example: Girls and boys may gather in single-sex groups on
the playground and do the same things. Children may invite only same-sex
children to their houses to play.
Media use stereotypes. Television,
radio, magazines, and computer software often show men and women in limited
roles. They place importance on women’s beauty and men’s strength.
For example: The female characters in Disney movies are very feminine
and pretty. They often need to be rescued by men. Boys in movies/TV/magazines
are strong and do not express many emotions.
Media encourage stereotypes in commercials. Advertisers make
commercials to be of interest to male or female audiences. The target
audience is different for different products. For example: Diet pills/programs
tend to have more women advertising the product. Sports equipment tends
to be advertised by male actors. Beautiful women are in many commercials
even though they are not related to the product.
for healthy gender development