Parents and Gender Socialization
From birth. parents act toward Children on the basis of the child’s sex. Baby boys are perceived to be less fragile than girls and end to’ be treated more roughly by their parents. Girl babies are thought to be “cute. sweet. and cuddly’ and receive more gentle treatment. Parents strongly influence the gender-role development of children by passing on-both overtly and covertly-their own beliefs about gender. .When girl babies cry. parents respond to them more quickly. and parents are more prone to talk and sing to irl babies (Wharton. 2004).
Children’s toys reflect their parents’ gender expectations. Gender-appropriate toys for boys include computer games. trucks and other vehicles. sports equipment. and war toys such as guns and soldiers. Girls’ toys include “Barbie” dolls. play makeup. and homemaking items. Parents’ choice toyboy for the children are are not likely to change in the near future. A group of college students n one study were shown slides of toys and asked to decide which ones they would buy for girls and boys. Most said they would buy us. soldiers. jeeps. carpenter tools. and red bicycles for boys; girls would get baby dolls. dishes. jewelry bobbysoxer boxes. and ink bicycles (Fisher-Thompson. 1990). \When children are old enough to help with household chores. they arc often assigned different tasks. Maintenance chores (such us mowing Reassigned (Ire assigned to boys. whereas domestic chores (such as shopping. king and clearing the table) are assigned to girls. Chores may also be occupational ture occupational choices and personal characteristics. Girls who are responsible for domestic chores such as caring for younger brothers and nurturing behaviors nurturing behaviors that later translate into employment as a nurse or schoolteacher. about computers learn about computers and other types of technology that lead to different career options.
In the past. most studies of gender socialization focused on white. middle-class families and paid little attention to ethnic differences (Rafael and DOn’t Contain 20042004). According to earlier studies. children from middle- and upper-income families are less likely to be assigned gender-linked chores than children from lower-income backgrounds. In addition. gender linked chore assignments occur less frequently in African American families. where both sons and daughters tend to be socialized toward independence. employment. and child care (Bar dwell. Cochran. and Walker. 1986; Hale-Benson. 1986). Sociologist Patricia Hill Collins (1991) suggests that African American mothers are less likely to socialize their daughters into roles as subordinates; stead. they are likely to teach them a critical posture that allows them to cope with contradictions.
In contrast. more-recent studies of gender socialization in U.S. Latino/a families suggest that adolescent females of Mexican. uerto Rican. Cuban. or other Central or South American descent receive different gender socialization l~omtheir parents than do their male siblings (Raffaelli and Ontai, 2004). Latinas are given more-stringent curfews and are allowed less interaction with embers of the opposite sex than are the adolescent males in their families. Rules for dating. school activities. and part-time jobs re more stringent for the girls because many parents want to protect their daughters and keep them closer to home
Across classes and racial/ethnic categories. mothers typically playa stronger role in gender socialization of daughters. whereas athers do more to. socialize sons than daughters (Mcfiale, Crouter, and Tucker, 1999). However, many parents are aware of the ffect that gender socialization has on their children and make a conscientious effort to provide nonsexist experiences for them. or example. one study found that mothers with nontraditional views encourage their daughters to be independent (Brooks-Gunn, 986). Many fathers also take an active role in socializing their sons to be thoughtful ani! caring individuals who do not live by traditional- gender stereotypes. However. peers often make nontradittonal gender socialization much more difficult for parents nd children (see Rabinowitz and Cochran. 1994).