Preschoolers' perspectives regarding gender roles

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this is likely influenced by the development of gender schemas. The current study ... As posited by social-cognitive theory (Bussey and Bandura 1999) however,.
What can boys and girls do? Preschoolers’ perspectives regarding gender roles across domains of behavior Erin R. Baker, Marie S. Tisak & John Tisak

Social Psychology of Education An International Journal ISSN 1381-2890 Soc Psychol Educ DOI 10.1007/s11218-015-9320-z

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Author's personal copy Soc Psychol Educ DOI 10.1007/s11218-015-9320-z

What can boys and girls do? Preschoolers’ perspectives regarding gender roles across domains of behavior Erin R. Baker1 • Marie S. Tisak1 • John Tisak1

Received: 16 December 2014 / Accepted: 6 July 2015  Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Abstract Previous research has examined at what age and in what contexts males and females develop gender-congruent stereotypes. Research indicates that social experience may provide a great influence on the presence of such stereotypes, but this is likely influenced by the development of gender schemas. The current study interviewed 99 children (3–6.5 years) in a sub-rural Midwestern university community. Females (N = 51, Mage = 4.6, SD = 0.73) and males (N = 48, Mage = 4.6, SD = 0.82) were individually asked who—boys, girls, or both—can do particular (1) occupations, (2) activities, (3) aggressive behaviors, and (4) prosocial behaviors. Generally, males tended to express holding no stereotypic beliefs, indicating gender-congruent expectations for only 2 items in one of the domains; however, females expressed multiple stereotypic beliefs for each of the four contexts. Social and cognitive explanations for these phenomena are discussed. The current study is an important addition to the existing literature in that preschool teachers and parents alike might be able to assist children to better develop activities and behavioral habits such that gender-related stereotypes fail to develop. Keywords Gender stereotypes  Preschool gender development  Social stereotypes

& Erin R. Baker [email protected] Marie S. Tisak [email protected] John Tisak [email protected] 1

Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA

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1 Introduction Children are exposed to gender-typic behaviors, expectations, and the like from different socializing agents from birth. There are a number of processes and mechanisms in which these experiences might influence children’s perceptions and behaviors (Tisak et al. 2012). Peer interactions have shown to be a significant influence in which children learn appropriate behaviors based on gender (Bussey and Bandura 2004; Cameron et al. 1985; Carlo 2006; Witt 2000). Moreover, parents and other adults, such as teachers, also play a critical role as socialization agents (Block 1983; Carlo 2006; Carlo et al. 2003; Grusec 2006; Pomerantz et al. 2004). Parents are more tolerant of certain behaviors (e.g., playing rough, being loud, getting dirty) when the child in question is male, but are less tolerant of such behaviors in the case of a female child. Similarly, female parents and teachers alike are more likely to engage in personal interactions, compared with male figures, which might help to further develop gender norms (Moon and Hoffman 2008). Differential parenting and teaching behaviors based upon gender can be witnessed in a number of contexts, not just during play behavior. For example, research has shown that parents use number-based language with boys, but not girls, at a younger age (Chang et al. 2011), supporting the stereotype of males excelling in math. Children learn these expectations via direct parental influence (e.g., parents stating that ‘‘dolls are for girls’’), and by indirect influence (e.g., parents only providing certain toys or clothing for certain gendered children). Importantly, although many parents report rejecting gender stereotypes, children as young as 3 years express that their parents still uphold these stereotypes, shown by the parents’ approval or disapproval of certain play activities (Freeman 2007). Furthermore, some adults may only disapprove of strikingly non-gender-norm behavior (Raag and Rackliff 1998; Martin 1990), which may help promote stereotypically congruent behaviors in children if they are exposed to strong reactions from adults other than parents and teachers. As posited by social-cognitive theory (Bussey and Bandura 1999) however, gender-typic understanding may not simply be the result of modeling and observational learning. As explicated by Martin et al. (2002), a child must first identify himself or herself as having a gender, thus aligning himself or herself as ‘‘like certain others’’, creating an in-group and, by default, an out-group. Once the child has self-identified, he or she then can recognize certain behaviors as appropriate, and can interpret external forces as in support of or against the existing gender schema (Bem 1981). Another aspect of development that might contribute to this phenomenon is children’s understanding of biological gender differences. As put forth by Turiel (1978), while preschool children use and adhere to social conventions regarding gender differences, their own explanations of such differences are largely based in biology (Taylor 1996). In the instances in which children of this age do acknowledge social conventions in the domain of gender-roles, they apply them broadly and uniformly, rather than understanding the nuances of such ideologies (Nucci and Turiel 1978). Further research shows that young children (i.e., 4-years-

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olds) might be able to apply both social and biological explanations just as well as older individuals (i.e., 10-years-olds and adults), and better than children in middle childhood (Taylor 1996). This supports the claim by Stoddart and Turiel (1985) that gender-role rigidity may follow an inverted-U pattern of development. However, while these studies provide evidence for children’s ability to use different rationale for gender stereotypes, none of these studies have found gender differences within these applications. Of particular interest in this study is in what context gender expectations become most pronounced to young children, specifically during the preschool years. By utilizing an interview methodology, researchers hope to avoid rater-report error, as adult raters may hold their own gender expectations and unknowingly misreport, especially in the case of highly gender-biased behaviors, such as aggression (Ostrov et al. 2005). Previous research has shown a wealth of support for the notion that children learn and use stereotypic beliefs and behaviors, even when arbitrarily created, via the concepts of in-group and out-group. For example, Patterson and Bigler (2006) created ‘‘red’’ and ‘‘blue’’ groups, then children were either asked to ignore these labels or use them regularly in the classroom; within a few weeks the children in the experimental group had established in-group biases, while the control group had not. Similar findings have been found when groups were not arbitrary, but based on sex roles (Powlishta 1995). 1.1 Occupation gender stereotypes Perhaps one of the clearest areas for study in regards to gender schema development lies in occupational standards, in that children might inadvertently build expectations based upon which genders typically fulfill certain roles. For example, according to the most recent census data (U.S. Census Bureau 2014), the large majority (97 %) of preschool and kindergarten teachers, a demographic with whom by definition preschoolers have many experiences, are female, and this trend continues to some degree throughout education (i.e., 81.8 % of middle school teachers are female, and 57 % in high school; U.S. Census Bureau). In contrast, the majority of physicians (67.7 %) and police officers (87 %) are males (U.S. Census Bureau), and although preschool children might have fewer exposures to persons in these roles, they still have interactions with these individuals at an early age. Other positions, such as bus drivers, are nearly equal in occupation by gender (U.S. Census Bureau). Additionally, Levy et al. (2000) found that preschool children use these exposures to build internal expectations for particular roles as being masculine or feminine, which in turn helps them to further develop gender-role-consistent expectations about these roles. Again, children may indirectly and unknowingly construct schemas for such roles based upon everyday interactions with persons in these roles, such as their own female preschool teacher or a male police officer. However, there is a dearth of empirical evidence in this area, as many persons in the field likely assume that children develop the expectations as just described, rather

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than by direct and intentional guidance by familiar adults, such as a parent telling a child that ‘‘only boys can be police’’. 1.2 Activity gender stereotypes Regarding particular everyday activities, true gender differences exist which might inform a child’s perspective on gender-typic behavior. For example, while men are twice as likely to be involved in lawn care and management, women are more likely to report being responsible for housework, and food preparation and cleanup (U.S. Department of Labor 2014). Other activities, such as watching television (U.S. Department of Labor), are reported as more gender-neutral, which may also lend to defining gender roles. In other words, as children gain more exposure and experience with age, and so as they are more exposed to stereotypically congruent and incongruent information they use this information to add to the wealth of knowledge they already possess. However, in the case of stereotypically-incongruent information, cognitive disequilibrium might develop in which case the child might choose to disregard such information, as it does not fit easily with their current and developing ideas. Children also differentially participate in stereotypically congruent behaviors from a young age (Hofferth and Sandberg 2001). For example, as girls get older they spend less time in play behavior and more time with reading and visiting, compared with boys who tend to increase their time in sports (Hofferth and Sandberg). However, Hofferth and Sandberg did not find gender differences for chore-related activities, such as cleaning up and putting away toys, which may be due to the young sample, or perhaps these behaviors are not as behaviorally engrained as believed. According to Freeman (2007), children might be more aware of their parents’ expectations for their own behaviors and activities, and thus might be choosing to participate in these activities (e.g., visiting and sports) more as they are more exposed to differential parenting. However, the majority of previous research looks into factors affecting stereotype development rather than whether or not children internalize these norms for their own interactions in the world, as the current study aims to do. 1.3 Aggressive behavior gender stereotypes As inhibitory control does not begin to develop in observable ways until preschool and early childhood due to brain maturation, mildly aggressive and acting out behaviors are typically more readily identified in observational research (Nucci and Turiel 1978; Ostrov et al. 2005; Tisak et al. 1996). As this research has shown, preschoolers’ aggressive expression typically involve physical harm (e.g., hitting), property violations (e.g., taking toys from others), and social aggression (e.g., verbal assault or exclusion). These findings are congruent with preschoolers’ perceptions of what kinds of not nice/bad behaviors occur (Crick et al. 1996; Foster et al. 1986; Russell and Owens 1999; Tisak and Block 1990; Tisak et al. 2001; Tisak et al. 2007).

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1.4 Prosocial behavior gender stereotypes Prosocial behavior, for the purposes of this study, is understood as ‘‘any action that, as it happens, benefits others, or promotes harmonious relations with others, even if there is no sacrifice on the actor’s part and even if there is some benefit to the actor’’ (p. 33, Hay 1994). It was conceptualized in this study as helping, sharing, being nice, listening, telling someone that he/she is nice, and being sad when another is hurt. Conceptualizing this construct with a variety of prosocial behaviors is necessary, in that much past research has only looked at a few types of prosociality (see Jackson and Tisak 2001, for a discussion), whereas some prosocial behaviors might be gender-typed, which is to be discussed next. Previous research indicates that children learn about and participate in these behaviors at a very young age (Hastings et al. 2007a; Walker 2005). Many studies have found null results regarding gender differences in prosocial expression (Bergin et al. 2002); however, some research has found that prosocial behaviors in general are more pronounced in girls than in boys (e.g., Hastings et al. 2007b; Hawley 2003; Persson 2005). Furthermore, some prosocial behaviors have been described to be more feminine (e.g., more emotional aspects, such as sympathy) or masculine (e.g., more behavioral, such as sharing and helping; Spinrad et al. 1999). Tisak et al. (2007), however, found that more children believe girls help more than boys at school, in contrast with gender expectations explicated by Spinrad et al. (1999). Regardless, children might internalize their observations of others acting in stereotypic-congruent ways, building gender-congruent expectations for future use of such behaviors, as discussed above. Additionally, if parents or teachers treat male and female children somewhat differently, children’s expectations and beliefs will be rewarded and supported, building the associations the child develops of gendercongruent behaviors. 1.5 Current study We investigated children’s perceptions regarding which gender is capable of being most associated with certain (a) activities, such as watching television, using tools, and cooking dinner, (b) occupations, such as a police officer, nurse, and teacher, (c) prosocial behaviors, such as helping, sharing, and letting others play, and (d) aggressive behaviors, such as hitting, taking a toy, pulling hair, and pinching. Children are equally exposed to particular behaviors and activities that are typically gender-congruent in adult behavior and peer behavior (Hofferth and Sandberg 2001; Freeman 2007), and so we expect that boys and girls will have differential stereotypic views in this domain. Further, children of this age are particularly exposed to certain gender-typic roles, such as teachers and police officers (U.S. Census Bureau 2014), and so we predict that boys and girls will equally hold stereotypic views in these regards (Levy et al. 2000). Regarding prosocial behaviors, it was hypothesized that girls will hold stronger stereotypes than boys in some categories; for example, prosociality is reported more by girls (Tisak et al. 2007), which may strengthen girls’ gender beliefs in this particular area due to in-group bias (Patterson and Bigler 2006). Finally, while

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typical American culture is more accepting of aggression in adult males than females (Prentice and Carranza 2002), children of this age are readily capable of identifying the social non-acceptance of most aggressive behaviors (Goldstein et al. 2002), likely due to constant supervision and behavioral correction. Therefore, it is expected that neither gender will show a preference in this domain.

2 Methods 2.1 Participants and procedures Participants were 99 children (3–6.5 years) from a sub-rural community in the Midwest, the majority of whom lived with both parents. Preschoolers were recruited through the school at which they attended. Both females (N = 51, Mage = 4.6, SD = 0.73) and males (N = 48, Mage = 4.6, SD = 0.82) completed the interview. Each child was interviewed individually by either a doctoral-level graduate student or a trained undergraduate research assistant. Children were asked introductory questions, used to build rapport. Children were then presented with a colorful box, which contained 24 question cards, and 3 illustrations. The illustrated figures included (1) a boy, (2) a girl, and (3) both a girl and a boy. The children were instructed to select a card from the box, which was then read to them by the instructor. Each card contained one question, and questions focused on the following four domains: (1) Occupation: which gender – males, females, or both – may hold a particular job (e.g., ‘‘who do you think can be a police officer,’’ ‘‘who do you think can bring food in a restaurant’’); (2) Activity: which gender may participate in a particular activity (e.g., ‘‘who do you think can ride a bike,’’ ‘‘who do you think can shop for clothes’’); (3) Aggressive behaviors: which gender is capable of performing particular aggressive acts (e.g., ‘‘who do you think can hit other kids on purpose,’’ ‘‘who do you think can break other kids’ toys on purpose’’); (4) Prosocial behaviors: which gender is capable of performing particular prosocial acts (e.g., ‘‘who do you think can share a toy with other kids,’’ ‘‘who do you think can let other kids play with them’’). For each card selected, the child was asked to answer who (i.e., girls only, boys only, or both boys and girls) he or she thought could perform these behaviors. Children were instructed to respond in such way that promoted both a verbal and a motor response (i.e., pointing to the picture). A random order was presented on asking girls only, boys only or both.

3 Results 3.1 Statistical procedure Maximum likelihood Chi square analyses in SAS software were used to assess any main effects and interactions for each of the categories within each domain. That is,

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we used multiple Chi square analyses, entering frequencies reported per response group—males who selected ‘‘Boys Only’’, females who selected ‘‘Boys Only’’, etc. If the percentages were very low for one response, it was not assessed (e.g., if ‘‘Both’’ was chosen frequently, and ‘‘Girls Only’’ was selected infrequently). 3.2 Occupations 3.2.1 Teacher When comparing the response of ‘‘Both’’ to the other options, there was a significant gender-by-response interaction, v2(5, n = 99) = 5.38, p \ .05, such that the majority of males (56 %) indicated that both genders are capable of being teachers, with only 31 % of females indicating the same. See Table 1. An additional interaction (v2(5, n = 99) = 10.16, p \ .01) was found when comparing the response of ‘‘Girls Only’’ to the other options; 63 % of females indicated thusly, while a smaller percentage of males (29 %) agreed that only girls can be teachers. 3.2.2 Doctor While both females (51 %) and males (71 %) agreed that both genders can be doctors, the remaining participants differed in opinion. Therefore, a gender-byresponse interaction was found, v2(5, n = 99) = 4.24, p \ .05, such that both genders tended to give same-gender responses; that is, 27 % of females indicated that only girls could be doctors, while 19 % of males believed that only boys could be doctors. 3.2.3 Police officer Regarding who can be a police officer, 54 % of males indicated that this was a gender-neutral job, v2(5, n = 48) = 11.35, p \ .01, while the majority (53 %) of females believed this career to be primarily taken upon by boys, v2(5, n = 51) = 12.85, p \ .01. 3.2.4 Bus driver When asked, ‘‘Who can drive the bus,’’ males (54 %) and females (41 %) agreed that both genders are capable. A smaller percentage of both genders (33 % of males, 39 % of females) indicated that only boys should be a bus driver. 3.2.5 Waiter Regarding who can serve food in a restaurant, the majority of both genders agreed that both boys and girls are capable (males, 60 %; females, 51 %). However, the rest of the children gave gender-matched responses. That is, many males (31 %) indicated that only boys can serve food, while females (37 %) stated that only girls can serve food, v2(5, n = 44) = 8.79 p \ .01.

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Author's personal copy E. R. Baker et al. Table 1 Analysis of maximum likelihood estimates for occupations

F indicates the response given by females, M indicates response given by males * p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001

Occupation

Subject-response

Estimate

SE

v2

Teacher

F-girls

0.9294

0.1992

21.77***

M-both

0.7595

0.2087

13.25***

Doctor

F-both

0.6534

0.2017

10.50**

M-both

0.9217

0.1861

24.52***

Police officer

F-boys

0.7493

0.2090

12.85***

M-both

0.7116

0.2113

11.35***

Bus driver

M-both

0.5639

0.1964

8.25**

Waiter

F-both

0.6821

0.2063

10.93***

M-both

0.7913

0.1998

15.69***

Nurse

F-girls

0.8118

0.2248

13.05***

M-both

0.8510

0.2225

14.63***

3.2.6 Nurse When comparing the response of ‘‘Girls Only’’ to the other possible responses, there was a significant gender-by-response interaction, v2(5, n = 99) = 6.44, p \ .05, such that the majority of females (49 %) believed that only girls could be nurses, while the majority of boys (54 %) indicated that both genders can hold this career. 3.3 Activities 3.3.1 Ride a bike As shown in Table 2, the majority of males (79 %) and females (67 %) agreed that both girls and boys could ride a bike. However, the remaining children tended to give same-gendered responses—21 % of males believed that only males could perform this task, while 29 % of females indicated that only girls were capable. 3.3.2 Use Tools The majority of both genders (56 % of males, 69 % of females) indicated that ‘‘Only Boys’’ use tools. The response of ‘‘Both’’ was also common, supported by 42 % of males and 22 % of females. 3.3.3 Watch tv The majority of both males (81 %) and females (69 %) believed that both boys and girls can watch tv. A smaller, but significant, percentage of each gender gave gender-matched responses, with 13 % of males indicating that only boys may watch tv, and 20 % of females indicating that only girls may do so.

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Author's personal copy What can boys and girls do? Preschoolers’ perspectives… Table 2 Analysis of maximum likelihood estimates for activities

Activity

Subject-response

Estimate

SE

v2

Ride a bike

F-both

0.9528

0.2157

19.51***

M-both

1.0640

0.2114

25.34***

F-boys

1.2463

0.2411

26.73***

M-both

0.6867

0.2691

6.51**

M-boys

0.9868

0.2525

15.27***

F-both

1.1881

0.2046

33.73***

M-both

1.2963

0.1997

42.12***

F-both

0.7167

0.2276

9.92***

F-girls

0.7576

0.2252

11.32***

M-both

0.9399

0.2151

19.10***

F-boys

0.9201

0.2492

13.63***

M-both

0.9564

0.2474

14.94***

Use tools

Watch tv Clothes shop

Fix cars F indicates the response given by females, M indicates response given by males * p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001

Cook dinner

M-boys

0.5687

0.2693

4.46*

F-both

0.6781

0.2034

11.12***

M-both

0.9165

0.1895

23.39***

3.3.4 Shop for clothes When comparing the response of ‘‘Both’’ to ‘‘Girls Only’’ a significant gender-byresponse interaction was found, v2(3, n = 91) = 4.86, p \ .05. The majority of males (63 %) identified that both genders can shop for clothes, but the female participants (49 %) tended to state that only girls may do so. 3.3.5 Fix cars Again, the majority of males (58 %) believed that both genders may participate in the activity, while only 35 % of females responded in kind. The majority of females (53 %), however, indicated that only boys are allowed to fix cars. 3.3.6 Cook dinner Regarding who may cook dinner, a significant gender-by-response interaction occurred, v2(3, n = 84) = 8.70, p \ .01. That is, the majority of both genders (69 % of males, 51 % of females) suggested that both genders are capable. However, gender-matched responses were also common (19 % of males, 35 % of females).

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3.4 Aggression 3.4.1 Hit The majority of both males (52 %) and females (51 %) agreed that both genders are capable of hitting, with the next most common response being ‘‘Boys Only’’ (32 % of males, 35 % of females). See Table 3. 3.4.2 Take A significant gender-by-response interaction was found, v2(3, n = 77) = 4.19, p \ .05. The majority of males (56 %) believed that both genders take things from other children, while a large percentage of females (45 %) indicated that this behavior is only possible by boys. 3.4.3 Break When asked who can break things, a large percentage of both genders (49 % of males, 53 % of females) indicated that both boys and girls are capable. No interaction was not found. 3.4.4 Pull hair Regarding who can pull hair, a significant gender-by-response interaction was found, v2(5, n = 94) = 5.78, p \ .05. Forty-seven percent of males believed that both girls and boys participate; however, a large group of females (49 %) dissented, identifying this behavior as a boy-specific activity. 3.4.5 Pinch When asked who can pinch other kids, both males (55 %) and females (41 %) agreed that boys and girls are both able. A gender-by-response interaction was not found.

Table 3 Analysis of maximum likelihood estimates for aggressive behaviors

Aggression

Response

Estimate

SE

v2

Hit

F-both

0.5991

0.2013

8.85**

M-both

0.5158

0.2070

6.21*

Take

F-boys

0.4362

0.2079

4.40*

F indicates the response given by females, M indicates response given by males

M-both

0.5641

0.1990

8.04**

Break

F-both

0.6152

0.1964

9.82**

Pull

F-boys

0.4779

0.1988

5.78*

* p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001

Pinch

M-both

0.5020

0.2001

6.29*

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3.5 Prosocial 3.5.1 Share Sixty-three percent of males and females agreed that both boys and girls are able to share their toys with classmates. An interaction was not found. 3.5.2 Help pick up The majority of males (75 %) and females (57 %) came to agreement in their beliefs of who can help pick up toys; both boys and girls are thought to participate. An interaction was not found. 3.5.3 Be nice to other kids Regarding who can be nice to other children, a significant gender-by-response interaction was found, v2(3, n = 92) = 4.09, p \ .05, when comparing the response of ‘‘Both’’ to ‘‘Girls Only’’. The majority of males (71 %) and females (57 %) agreed that both boys and girls can be nice. However, the remaining participants gave gender-matched responses—23 % of males indicated that only boys can be nice, with 27 % of females suggesting that only girls are able of being nice to peers. 3.5.4 Let others play In line with other prosocial items, the majority of males (77 %) stated that both boys and girls can let other children play, with 57 % of females responding in kind. Again, a significant gender-by-response interaction was found, v2(3, n = 86) = 11.28, p \ .001, such that males (15 %) and females (31 %) were more likely to give a gender-matched response than an opposite-gender response. 3.5.5 Be sad when others are hurt Males (67 %) and females (57 %) agreed that both boys and girls can be sad when others are hurt. An interaction was not found. 3.5.6 Listen to the teacher Regarding who can listen to the teacher, significant gender-by-response interactions were found. Specifically comparing the responses of ‘‘Both’’ and ‘‘Girls Only’’, females were 23 % more likely than males to indicate the belief that only girls are capable, v2(3, n = 84) = 17.90, p \ .001. A second gender-by-response interaction, v2(3, n = 33) = 6.86, p \ .01, was found when comparing ‘‘Boys Only’’ and ‘‘Girls Only’’, in that male participants were more likely to indicate that only boys are able to listen, compared with female respondents (Table 4).

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Author's personal copy E. R. Baker et al. Table 4 Analysis of maximum likelihood estimates for prosocial behaviors

F indicates the response given by females, M indicates response given by males * p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001

Prosocial

Response

Estimate

SE

v2

Share toys

F-both

1.0032

0.2107

22.67***

M-both

0.9386

0.2140

19.24***

Help pick-up

F-both

0.8123

0.1976

16.91***

M-both

1.0285

0.1859

30.61***

Be nice

F-both

0.8492

0.2049

17.17***

M-both

1.0083

0.1965

26.32***

Let others play

F-both

0.8882

0.2049

18.79***

M-both

1.1318

0.1924

34.62***

Sad/hurt

F-both

0.7949

0.1974

16.22***

M-both

0.8933

0.1918

21.69***

Listen to teacher

F-both

1.0075

0.2188

21.20***

M-both

1.1898

0.2102

32.05***

4 Discussion The goal of this study was to investigate preschool children’s thinking about which gender is capable of being associated with particular occupations, activities, and aggressive and prosocial behaviors. Regarding occupations, we anticipated that males and females would equally express stereotypic beliefs, in line with previous research (Levy et al. 2000); however, females showed greater gender-congruent beliefs than did males. Females expressed that only girls may be teachers, only boys may be police officers, and that only girls may be nurses. Comparatively, males reported equal gender prescriptions for every occupation measured here (i.e., teacher, doctor, police, bus driver, waiter, nurse). In American society, and especially in recent years, there has been a push to have greater gender equality in particular subcultures (Tamis-LeMonda and McFadden 2009). Thus, it may be that this shift has affected males more than females, in that changing boys’ (i.e., future men) expectations might change societal expectations more than changing females’ beliefs. Further research is required to better understand this component of gendercongruency. As gender differences truly exist in particular domains, such as with everyday activities, we hypothesized that males and females would equally express stereotypic beliefs. We found partial support for this hypothesis. Both males and females held stereotypic beliefs regarding multiple types of activities. Specifically, both females and males felt that only boys could use tools and fix cars, while females (but not males) felt that only girls could shop for clothes. Overall, these findings are also consistent with previous research (Hofferth and Sandberg 2001). We expected to find that children, male and female alike, would not differentiate by gender in their expectations of aggressive behaviors in peers; this was not fully supported. While there was largely an agreement in participant response reflective of this hypothesis, females indicated for two items (i.e., taking, pulling hair) that boys exhibit these behaviors more so than girls, while males showed no genderdifferentiated expectations. These findings support previous studies regarding actual

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aggressive behaviors (e.g., Tisak et al. 1996; Ostrov and Keating 2004). Nonetheless, other research has shown little gender differences in aggressive children’s thinking about who commits aggressive behaviors. (Tisak et al. 2012), which supports the male-reported beliefs in this study. Further research is necessary to disentangle the multiple constructs inherent in understanding preschoolers’ beliefs versus actual behaviors. Lastly, for social behaviors, we differentially expected that females would express greater gender-typic beliefs for prosocial behaviors than would males; however, this was not the case. Males and females reported that both boys and girls could behave in all of the prosocial ways (i.e., sharing toys, helping to pick up, being nice, letting others play, being sad when another is hurt, and listening to the teacher). In contrast with previous research on children’s beliefs of prosocial behavior (Tisak et al. 2007; Spinrad et al. 1999), these findings suggest an interesting paradigm shift, in that preschools and parents of young children may be more universal in their expectations of their children than previously expected. However, this finding may simply be the result of their interactions within the preschools in which they attended. Given the structure and expectations of positive social interactions, they might have felt more inclined to respond in a way reflective of preschool rules and norms. These data generally mirror findings of differential gender-congruency in previous studies (Halim et al. 2014), in that females expressed greater gender stereotypic beliefs than did males. Generally, these findings indicate that males and females differentially interpret and give importance to experiences regarding gender-roles. It would appear that preschool males either fail to notice differences in gender-roles, or that they fail to interpret such instances as related to gender. While female preschoolers in this study provided gender-role congruent answers, both proscriptive and prescriptive, quite frequently, males were much more likely to give gender-neutral responses in every domain. While it is possible that male preschool children are less likely to experience instances that might create gender-stereotypes, two other explanations are more likely. First, female children typically have more socialization opportunities than do males, which may provide females with more experience from which to develop these stereotypes. In line with social-cognitive theory (Bussey and Bandura 1999), females might be more inclined to show gender preference as a result of learning socially accepted gender norms and to assimilate these expectations into their internalized beliefs of what it means to be a ‘‘girl’’. Furthermore, females, as compared to males, may do this at an earlier age for a number of reasons, which leads us to the second explanation for differential gender-role stereotype development. Female gender norms are typically prescriptive rather than proscriptive (e.g., ‘‘Girls wear dresses’’ versus ‘‘Boys don’t wear dresses’’; Halim et al. 2014), and so it may be easier for girls to assimilate this information, as it requires less elegant cognitive abilities. Males, then, might have a harder time understanding what is considered acceptable gender-norm behavior, in that much of the American culture identifies maleness as associated with activities or traits, rather than by dress, which could be more difficult to internalize. Therefore, it might simply take longer for

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males to develop and express these stereotyped beliefs. Additionally, Zosuls et al. (2009), point out that females typically develop faster than males in general, and so gender-congruent expectations and beliefs—as a function of cognitive development—might simply be another example of this. 4.1 Limitations and conclusions As with any study, limitations existed within the current project. For example, the particular activities, occupations, etc., were somewhat limited in their scope; future studies could expand upon this by including more activities and occupations. As such, the current study limited the number of questions asked to the child for brevity of interview, as preschoolers’ attention spans are somewhat limited. Furthermore, future studies could include further contexts in which children might develop stereotypes, such as clothing and appearance expectations (e.g., see Halim et al. 2014). Additionally, it would be interesting to investigate this phenomenon longitudinally or with an older cohort, at which age males’ beliefs may be more solidified. The current study is an important addition to the existing literature in that it helps to inform preschool teachers and parents of areas of curriculum development. In line with Bem’s (1981) theorizing on the collaborative impacts of environmental stimuli and cognitive development, parents might assist children in participating in activities and developing behavioral habits that inhibit gender-stereotype development. Examining the current results, this might be particularly relevant for parents and teachers of female children, as females tended to express beliefs stronger in gender-congruency than did males. Specifically, regarding occupations and activities, it might be beneficial to expose children early on to gender-incongruent individuals and positions.

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Erin R. Baker Ph.D. Candidate, Psychology, Bowling Green State University (2016). Teaching Associate at Bowling Green State University, Psychology, Bowling Green, OH. Research interests: social and cognitive development in childhood and adolescence, parenting factors, aggression.

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Author's personal copy What can boys and girls do? Preschoolers’ perspectives… Marie S. Tisak Ph.D. Stanford University (1984). Professor of Psychology and Head of Developmental Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. Research interests: socio-cognitive development, moral development, social reasoning among youth offenders, aggression. John Tisak Ph.D. University of California (1984). Professor of Psychology at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. Research interests: psychological measurement, longitudinal and lifespan modeling, structural equation modeling.

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