Gender Roles May Emerge Through Parents

READING, Pa., June 10 (UPI) — The way parents interact with their toddlers may affect how children develop gender stereotypes, U.S. researchers suggest.

Eric Lindsey of Pennsylvania State Berks — a college of Pennsylvania State University — and colleagues used data from 80 families from two cities in Kansas as part of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.


Parents were videotaped with their toddlers during a 15-minute parent-child play session and a 10-minute parent-child session.

The study, published online in the journal Sex Roles, finds that the quality of verbal interactions between parents and their toddlers depended on the context.

During the snack, the parents were the focus of the interaction with the toddlers accepting that parents were in charge during the snack. But during play, the interactions were child centered — with more equal interactions between parents and their toddlers.

The researchers find that while playing the fathers were more assertive, but mothers displayed more facilitative and cooperative behaviors. However, during the snack, the parents’ behaviors were similar.

“It would appear that children in the same family have different experiences in their play interactions with their mothers and fathers,” the study authors says in a statement. “Such differences may teach children indirect lessons about gender roles and reinforced gender typed patterns of behavior that they then carry into contexts outside of the family.”

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