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Discuss the Gender Stereotypes in the Family Context: Mothers, Fathers, and Siblings

Discuss the Gender Stereotypes in the Family Context: Mothers, Fathers, and Siblings

Gender stereotypes are widely held beliefs about the char- acteristics, behaviors, and roles of men and women (Weinraub et al. 1984). In the preschool period family

context and family experiences are important for gender stereotype development (McHale et al. 2003; Witt 1997). Several, mostly U.S., studies have investigated child gender stereotypes in a family context, and demonstrated that pa- rental gender stereotypes and the presence of siblings play an important role in the development of explicit gender stereotypes (McHale et al. 1999, 2003; Turner and Gervai 1995), but it remains unclear if these factors have the same influence on the development of more unconscious (i.e., implicit) forms of stereotyping. There is also evidence that different aspects of parental gender stereotypes (implicit or explicit) may influence parenting behavior in different ways (Nosek et al. 2002a, b, 2005; Rudman 2004). To our knowl- edge parental implicit and explicit gender stereotypes have not yet been examined together in one study in relation to children’s implicit gender stereotypes. Moreover, the litera- ture on gender stereotypes is dominated by North-American studies, whereas it is equally important to study parent and child gender stereotypes in societies like the Netherlands, where gender equality and the participation of women in the labor market are relatively high, and fathers are generally ranked high on father involvement (Cousins and Ning 2004; Devreux 2007). Studying gender stereo- types in the Netherlands may also provide insights into why gender stereotypes persist and how they are trans- mitted across generations even in societies that no longer explicitly accept gender stereotypes.

In the current study we examine implicit gender stereo- types of Dutch preschoolers and their parents within the family context, focusing on the role of implicit and explicit parental gender stereotypes, child gender, and sibling gen- der. A family systems model (Bowen 1978) is employed to incorporate the bidirectional influence of parents and their children on each others attitudes. We also draw from social learning theories and gender schema theory, because they consider parents to be important in children’s gender

J. J. Endendijk :M. G. Groeneveld : S. R. van Berkel : E. T. Hallers-Haalboom : J. Mesman (*) : M. J. Bakermans-Kranenburg Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands e-mail:

Sex Roles (2013) 68:577–590 DOI 10.1007/s11199-013-0265-4

stereotype development. Figure 1 shows the model of the associations tested in this study.

Parental Gender Stereotypes

Parents can hold gender stereotypes both implicitly and explicitly. Implicit stereotypes operate largely outside con- scious awareness, whereas explicit gender stereotypes are directly stated or overtly expressed ideas about men and women (Benaji and Greenwald 1995; Rudman and Glick 2001; Rudman and Kilianski 2000). These two types of attitudes can be different in strength and can be seen as different constructs that both operate in their own way on our behaviors, according to a U.S. study with adults (Nosek et al. 2002a). Explicit stereotypes are usually assessed using questionnaires or interviews, as in a U.S. study with adults (White and White 2006), and implicit attitudes and cogni- tions about gender can be assessed by the Implicit Association Test (Nosek et al. 2002a), sentence completion or priming tasks, as in a Belgian study with adults (De Houwer et al. 2009). The major strength of implicit meas- ures is that they are less prone to social desirability, because they are based on automatic or habitual responding. A weakness is that it is not entirely clear whether implicit tasks indeed measure a person’s own stereotypes, or culturally shared attitudes (De Houwer et al. 2009). In the field of gender stereotype studies it is now common to use both measures to get a complete picture of a person’s attitudes about gender. In addition, for controversial subjects like gender and race, U.S. studies with adults have shown that implicit stereotypes are better predictors of behavior than explicit self-reported stereotypes (Nosek et al. 2002a, b,

2005; Rudman 2004), because explicit reports may be bi- ased by social desirability and a lack of awareness of own stereotypes (Kunda and Spencer 2003; White and White 2006). Social desirability tendencies appear to be strongest among people with higher levels of education, because of their greater awareness of what are appropriate responses, according to a U.S. study with adults (Krysan 1998). So, educational level of participants has to be taken into account when examining gender stereotypes.

Children’s Gender Stereotypes

Children acquire gender stereotypes at an early age. A U.S study with 10- month-old children found that at this age they can already detect gender-related categories (Levy and Haaf 1994). In the second year of life preferences for gender- stereotypical toys appear, as found in a Canadian study with 12-, 18-, and 24-month-old children (Serbin et al. 2001). According to another Canadian study explicit knowledge about gender roles emerges between the ages of 2 and 3 years (Poulin-Dubois et al. 2002). Several U.S. studies found that by the age of 4 years stereotypes are well devel- oped (Fagot et al. 1992), but it takes until about 8 years of age for gender stereotypes to become more complex, flexi- ble and similar to adult stereotypes (Martin et al. 1990; Trautner et al. 2005).

Determining gender stereotypes in children is a challeng- ing task. It has been done in the U.S. using stories and pictures (Best et al. 1977) or sorting tasks (Martin et al. 1990; O’Brien et al. 2000) and in Canada with preferential looking paradigms (Serbin et al. 2001). These types of measures of gender stereotypes in children have however

Family constellation

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