Masculine, Femenine? Gender Roles And How We Gain It

October 17, 2007

Having traditional parents and a brother is a potent combination that supports the development of traditionality in gender role attitudes. Crouter speculated, that peers may be an important influence on second borns.

In society at large, attitudes about gender roles are gradually becoming less traditional and more egalitarian, but the researchers found that even in the face of this widespread shift, there are individuals who are staunchly conservative about the roles of women and men. The findings suggest that gender attitudes take shape across childhood and adolescence, and that the cues youth take about attitudes come, at least in part, from experiences with parents and siblings.

Next to family factors, the mass media, include the various forms of mass communication-television, newspapers, magazines, radio, and motion pictures, are not to be neglected when it comes to shaping of gender roles. Television plays a particularly large role in shaping a person’s values, attitudes, and behavior. Many children spend long hours watching television.

Evidence indicates that people-especially young people-pattern their behavior after what they see or hear in the mass media. A style of clothing or hairstyle that becomes trendy on television or in motion pictures quickly becomes trendy at school.

Luckily enough, television has increasingly portrayed women and men in nonstereotypical roles. Many female characters now are shown as assertive and independent with nontraditional careers, such as surgeons, military officers, or police officers. In addition, many male characters are shown as caring, nurturing husbands and parents.
Child Development
Volume 78 Issue 3 Page 911 – May/June 2007

Ann C. Crouter, Shawn D. Whiteman, Susan M. McHale, D. Wayne Osgood (2007)
Development of Gender Attitude Traditionality Across Middle Childhood and Adolescence
Child Development 78 (3), 911–926.

The development of gender attitudes in 402 youth (201 firstborn and 201 secondborn siblings) in 201 European American families was examined using data collected on seven occasions across 9 years. Pooling across siblings and using multilevel modeling, we examined gender attitude development from ages 7 to 19. Consistent with an ecological perspective, the combined effects of individual (i.e., sex, age, birth order) and contextual (i.e., parents’ gender attitudes, sibling sex) characteristics predicted patterns of change. Although most youth declined in traditionality, the attitudes of firstborn boys with brothers and traditional parents became more traditional over time. No one longitudinal pattern captured the development of gender attitudes; trajectories varied as a function of contextual and personal characteristics.