Erica Johnson's Senior Thesis
The Relationship Between Mother's
and Children's Gender Roles and
Erica L. Johnson, Saint Anslem College,
Class of 2001
Any questions, please email me at email@example.com
study examines the gender roles and stereotypes of children in relation
to their mother's employment status ranging from "stay at home" to a professional
level career. A review of the literature suggests that children will form
more androgynous, both male and female, gender roles when their mother
works outside the home. It was also expected that mothers in high
status positions would have children who reported even more androgynous
gender role scores and fewer stereotypes about the opposite sex as their
mother would be in a nontraditional role.
Sex Role Inventory (CSRI) (Boldizar, 1991) was used to measure the gender
roles and stereotypes of fifth and eighth grade students from a large middle-school
in an average sized New England town. A total of 49 participants
(age 10 to 15 years), 23 males and 26 females, were given the CSRI twice
to measure the gender roles and stereotypes of the participants.
The CSRI scores were compared to the level of the mother's employment.
A MANOVA was run comparing grade, gender and the employment status of the
children's mothers to their CSRI scores. No significance was found
related to mother's employment. A two (gender) by two (grade) MANOVA
was conducted to assess the total difference in scores on the CSRI between
groups. There was significance found for gender F(1,28)=18.61, p<.05
and for grade, F(1,28)=8.70, p<.05, however no significant interaction
was reported between gender and grade on total difference on the CSRI.
Both males and females scored the opposite sex in ways which would indicate
stereotyping. In terms of gender roles boys reported higher
feminine scores than masculine scores regardless of mother's employment.
Girls reported androgynous scores, scoring themselves high on both the
masculine and feminine scales. Contrary to prediction, girls of stay
at home mom's demonstrated more androgynous scores than girls from dual-career
families when the means were compared. Eighth graders reported more
stereotyping than fifth graders. A comparison of the means indicates
that especially, eighth grade girls demonstrate a change in gender roles
and stereotypes from fifth through eighth grade. This supports the
literature that as children age they become more sex-typed and report more
of this study indicate contrary results. Although mother's employment
did not seem to effect gender role development, clearly gender roles and
stereotypes are being formed.
of the Literature
With growing numbers
of women in the workforce it is not surprising that concerns have been
raised regarding the effects this will have upon children. The United
States Census Bureau (1999) reported the number of married, working mothers
in 1998 to be 18.1 million up from 6.6 million in 1960. Seven million-seven
hundred thousand of those women working have children under the age of
six years. Not only are more women working but they are taking on
high status occupations which were once thought to be predominantly male.
In 1983, 5.8 percent of engineers were women, in 1998 this figure rose
to 11.1 percent. The number of women lawyers and physicians
has risen from 15.3 and 15.8 percent in 1983 to 28.5 and 26.6 percent in
1998, respectively (US Census Bureau, 1999). Questions and concerns
have been raised as to the impact maternal employment will have on child
development. Traditional gender roles are being challenged as more
and more women are proving that they can balance motherhood and work and
men are taking on household chores. What effect is this having on
the development of gender roles in children?
will explore the gender roles and stereotypes of children in relation to
their mother's employment status. This study also investigates the
change that occurs during early adolescence by comparing fifth and eighth
graders survey scores. The literature reports that seventh grade
marks a change in gender role formation as children begin to adopt roles
more in accordance with their own sex (Alfieri, Ruble & Higgins, 1996).
Theories of gender formation will be explored such as Bandura's social
learning theory and Bem's gender schema theory in order to understand how
children adopt these roles. If it is found that a relationship exists
between mother's employment and her children's gender roles and stereotypes
then it is possible that these gender roles and stereotypes can be reduced
with the expansion of women in prominent employment positions. This
study will also explore other aspects of mother's employment in relation
to children's reported gender roles and stereotypes, such as percent female
in the mother's occupational field and whether the mother is employed part-time
GENDER IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT
identity development is the association that the child makes with persons
of the same sex which leads to defining oneself as male or female.
Biologically the child understands that he or she is a boy or girl around
age three when the child can identify himself as a boy or girl (Kohlberg
& Ullman, 1974). Understandably, it is necessary that a child
be able to identify him/herself to be of a particular sex in order to develop
the gender roles of that sex. Kohlberg and Ullman (1974) explain
that the child must not only identify his/her sex but understand that it
is permanent in order to later develop the gender roles associated with
that sex. After a year the child is able to pick out of a picture
of a man and woman, who is mommy and who is daddy. At eighteen months
the child understands that there are two distinct sexes and at two to three
years of age knows which sex category he or she is a member of (Belotti,
1976). Lawrence Kohlberg and Ullman (1974) developed
a cognitive developmental model to explain the development of sex roles
beginning with identity development. The child begins by categorizing
him/herself as a boy or girl. Kohlberg and Ullman (1974) view gender
as the only category which the child, with limited cognitive ability, can
relate to all others through. This is significant in that the child's
sex gives him/her a sense of belonging. The entire developmental
process is not complete until after age six or seven as the child is cognitively
unable to view his or her sex as permanent until that age. Once the
child has categorized him/herself, the child begins to value same sex behaviors
and objects positively, desiring to further enmesh him/herself into his/her
own sex category. At this point gender role formation begins to permeate
the child's self concept. The girl, then, can be seen as saying
'I'm a girl; therefore I want to do girl things.' Doing 'girl' things
becomes rewarding in itself, as children are reinforced for gender appropriate
behaviors (Kohlberg & Ullman, 1974).
GENDER ROLE FORMATION
child has come to identify him/herself as permanently male or female through
the process of gender identity development the child enters the developmental
stage of gender role formation. In this stage the child adopts the
gender roles that are specific to his/her sex. Although identity
begins as a matter of biological difference, cultural expectations soon
emerge and bring with them differences which are often repeated and accepted
in daily life. These beliefs build the foundation for gender roles
and stereotypes. The concepts of masculinity and femininity have
been defined by society and reinforced both positively and negatively by
society. (Deaux & Major, 1990). Just as we are able to
label aggressive persons and independent persons we label those who are
considered masculine and feminine based on our stereotypes of what each
constitutes (Deaux & Major, 1990). These stereotypes are seen
as stable and are used to explain those behaviors which fall within the
stereotype. For example, if a woman cries it is okay because she
is vulnerable and sensitive just as the definition of feminine has come
to mean. If a man cries he is looked upon as weak and his action
is considered to be socially unacceptable. Deaux and Major (1990)
use the term self-fulfilling prophecy to explain how individuals accept
the beliefs of the culture and behave in ways which support the stereotypic
beliefs. The term self-fulfilling prophecy indicates that when enough
people hold a certain view of a person that that person will eventually
fulfill the view or expectation (Geis, 1993). Deaux and Major (1990)
also explain behavior as varying in ways which portray a more favorable
image. One may display a feminine quality to impress another although
it may not be a stable personality trait for that person. People
tend to make decisions to act in a way which is considered more socially
theorists emphasize imitation as a factor which leads to the development
of gender roles and stereotypes. Just as children learn to speak
by imitation, they also learn to imitate the behaviors of the person whom
they are in closest contact with and is biologically similar to themselves
(Belotti, 1978). The same sex parent therefore becomes the object
of the child's attention. The child learns to relate to the same
sex parent as the girl is given a doll while the boy a car. Caring
for the doll symbolizes maternity causing the girl to relate more readily
to the mother. The boy learns to identify with dad and imitates him
(Belotti, 1978). Unknowingly, parents and society socialize children
into roles which are gender appropriate. Shaping of behavior
occurs through rewarding appropriate behaviors or punishing behaviors that
are inappropriate to the child's gender. Labels such as 'big boy'
and 'sissy' can acquire secondary reinforcement qualities that aid in giving
the child a sense of what is expected (Weitz, 1977). The gender roles
that the child adopts stem from having imitated those behaviors that were
displayed and reinforced by the people that the child is close to.
Having learned what gender the child is in the early stages of gender identity
development the child understands that it is more reinforcing to model
the behaviors of the same sex parent.
theory is similar to imitation theory. Kagan (1970) describes his
theory of identification as the way in which children come to model the
behaviors that are considered gender appropriate by modeling their parents.
As the child learns to identify with the same sex parent, the child will
then imitate that parent. Through interactions with others the child
learns what sex role is expected and accustoms himself to act in accordance
with that expectation. The child is not only identifying with the
same sex parent but also being reinforced for actions which are in agreement
with those of that parent. Jerome Kagan (1970) takes this socialization
a step further than just saying that the child models the behaviors of
the same sex parent. Kagan believes that the child identifies with
the same sex parent because the child believes that by modeling the parent
he or she will grow up to possess the same qualities and attributes as
Social Learning Theory
(1963) social learning theory involves many of the factors that are present
in other theories. Bandura's theory perceives sex role identity to
be a result of cumulative experience. Socialization agents such as
parents, teachers and peers shape children's gender-related behaviors through
modeling, expectations, toy choices, reinforcement and punishment of gender
appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, and by treating boys and girls
differently from one another. Empirical research has been found to
support imitation, identi- fication and social learning theory. Children
have been found to desire the same characteristics in their own lives as
have been demonstrated by their parents.
relationship between mothers' and children's attitudes toward mother's
employment was found supporting Kagan's gender identification theory (Starrels,
1992). Mothers in traditional roles who stayed at home with the children,
had children who reported that mothers should stay at home with the children,
while children whose mothers worked reported that they too would work when
they had children. Possible explanations are that if children are
satisfied in their own development they will report that it is the best
way to raise children. Castellino, Lerner, Lerner and von Eye (1998)
found that maternal employment and level of education had a positive influence
on children's career trajectories as children had similar goals as their
mothers. Especially in girls, maternal employment can be seen as
a link to future employment aspirations. Stephan and Corder (1985)
state that as more children are from dual career families they too will
form dual career families creating a positive feedback loop. Therefore,
the incidence of dual career families is on the rise as well as egalitarian
sex-role attitudes and behaviors. Empirical research supports both
identification, imitation and social learning theory as agents leading
to gender role formation. These studies also support the idea that
mothers employment could influence the gender roles of her children.
Daughters, while influenced more by their mother's career choice, as they
model their mother, may especially be influenced in their gender roles.
Gender Schema Theory
Bem is a significant figure in gender formation research. Her
gender schema theory (1993) is used to explain how children come to adopt
the social structure of society and in turn learn to value its gender stereotypes
as well. Similar to social learning theory, gender schema theory
contains two fundamental presuppositions about gender formation.
First, that there are what she calls "gender lenses" in cultural practice
that become internalized by the child throughout development. Secondly,
once the gender lenses are internalized then the child is predisposed to
construct an identity and self-concept that is consistent with those lenses
(Bem, 1993). More clearly, as children learn to model the ideas that
society values they evaluate their own behaviors and judge other's behaviors
in accordance with cultural definition. This establishes the
basis of stereotype formation. It becomes more acceptable to follow
societal expectation themselves and they expect it from others as well.
As society feeds children information regarding gender roles, through movies,
television and adult interactions, children take it in willingly without
questioning it. What children are seeing is that boys are more valued
than girls and they adopt attitudes similar to this belief (Bem, 1993).
divides the possible gender types into three categories. Those known
to be gender polarized have adopted either predominantly masculine or feminine
gender roles. These people have adopted the cultural expectation
of gender appropriateness. Undifferentiated persons demonstrate few
behaviors which are considered either masculine or feminine. They
have avoided adopting strong gender roles in either direction. Persons
who are androgynous demonstrate both masculine and feminine personality
traits. One is androgynous when they have self concepts that simultaneously
incorporate masculine and feminine characteristics defined by the culture
or by having self-concepts that are not intermixed with cultural definitions
of gender appropriateness (Bem, 1993). Research seems to suggest
that there are benefits to being androgynous. Mary Pipher (1994),
for instance, writes to have found androgynous persons to be more well-adjusted
as adults than those who are not. It is also possible that androgynous
persons will see more career opportunities as fewer jobs will be seen as
Each theory plays a crucial
role in development of gender roles. Each theory overlaps to explain
how each socialization factor such as mother, father, toys, teacher, television,
etc. plays a role in shaping the child's gender. A great number of
studies have been conducted as to the gender roles and stereotypes adolescents
display, many of which support the above theories and others which do not.
The current study investigates whether maternal employment can act as a
positive socializing agent. Is there a relationship between having
an employed mother and possessing a less defined gender role and stereotype
measure? Further, does having a mother in a higher status employment
position further reduce these gender roles and stereotypes? Many
studies of empirical research say yes.
research on the effects mother's employment has on her children has been
conducted in recent years primarily due to the increasing numbers of women
in the work force and in higher status positions. These jobs require
higher levels of education and may also create less time for mothers to
spend with their children. For this reason, many studies have been
conducted to analyze the effects having a working mother has on children.
The studies conducted have been predominantly using maternal employment
(whether the mother works outside the home or not) as the independent variable.
Late adolescent women were found to report higher levels of self esteem
when mothers worked in nontraditional careers (Keith, 1988).
Castellino, Lerner, Lerner and von Eye (1998) report that having fewer
gender role stereotypes may prove profitable when choosing an occupation
as more careers will be seen as options.
have been consistently found to have more egalitarian beliefs when their
mother works. Kiecolt and Acock (1988) found women to be more supportive
of political opportunities for women and to reject traditional gender roles
when their mothers worked. These researchers also found a stronger
relationship between mothers' educational level and more egalitarian sex
role attitudes. Gardner and LaBrecque (1986) found that when high
school seniors took a sex role inventory that there was a significant difference
in scores of seniors of full-time employed mothers in comparison to full-time
homemakers. Those seniors of full-time employed mothers were found
to have more liberal scores, advocating nontraditional gender roles.
Females were found to favor nontraditional gender roles more so than males
regardless of maternal employment status. They suggest that the findings
may be due to being exposed to shared roles at home as the both parents
are needed to smoothly run the household (Gardner & LaBrecque, 1986).
to the above findings, sex role differences were not found to be impacted
by maternal employment in a study of late adolescent college students (Keith,
1988). In that study it was found that children from two-career families
were likely to desire two career families for themselves in the future.
However, sons of higher status employed women reported that they wanted
wives who would not work when their children were born (Keith, 1988).
Late adolescent boys were less likely to desire their wives to work after
having children when their mothers were in higher status occupations. The
study does not offer an explanation, but suggests the possibility that
sons may perceive two-career families to be high in stress causing them
to opt for more traditional family styles. Willetts-Bloom and Nock
(1994) found that there was no relationship between mothers working and
more egalitarian gender role attitudes in undergraduate college students.
They also found that neither prestige of the mother's occupation nor the
percent of females in the field was significantly related to gender attitudes.
This could be accounted for by the fact that the subjects were in college
therefore, they were interested in higher levels of employment and the
women probably interested in more nontraditional careers. These students
may also have had higher than average socioeconomic status and have been
exposed to people from a variety of high status positions. College
students are also exposed to college professors who tend to be proportionally
male and female. The current study investigates the gender role attitudes
of fifth and eighth graders of an average income city. Being from
a place of average socioeconomic status and at this age (10-15 years) their
exposure to people and careers may not be as wide nor as limiting.
the discrepancy within the studies of maternal employment's effects on
gender role attitudes, more research must be conducted. Little research
has been done to investigate the relationship between the actual status
of the mother's occupation and children's gender role attitudes.
Much of the research deals with mother's who work either inside or outside
the home rather than on the status of the employment. The research
also tends to focus on men and women around the age of nineteen.
Research findings by Kiecolt and Acock (1988) suggest that maternal employment
has more of an effect on gender role attitudes in adolescence than in early
childhood. It has been found that around the seventh grade children
begin to act more in accordance with society's conceptions of gender roles
(Alfieri, Ruble & Higgins, 1996; Pipher, 1994). This may be due
to the increasing interest in the opposite sex which occurs in this time
period and the increased interaction across gender. Each sex is more
likely to act in accordance with the self-fulfilling prophecy theory by
acting in accordance with societal gender expectations. This time
may also supply children with their earliest experience in gender stereotypes
as they can are able to identify differences between their actions and
that of the opposite sex. Pipher (1994) further states that especially
in girls, that math, science and IQ scores drop considerably in early adolescence.
Along with their academic performance girls lose their assertive, energetic
and 'tomboyish' personalities and become more focused on their body and
are more likely to be depressed. This study will investigate the
gender roles of participants before and after this critical point in adolescent
development by surveying fifth and eighth graders.
gender roles effected by maternal employment previous to this reported
change in early adolescence and afterward? Most of the research that
does exist neglects to examine how each sex perceives the other in terms
of gender stereotypes. If a relationship is found to exist between
maternal employment and gender roles and stereotypes, then it is possible
to reduce the effects of socialization or to increase the positive effects
through increased interaction with one's mother and her career. Imitation
is the theory most relevant to the current study. If children are
found to adopt less traditional gender roles and stereotypes when their
mother works, they are adopting roles that are more in accordance with
their family (particularly influenced by mother's employment status) than
that of society. Implications for this could be that future generations
have less gender roles and stereotypes and that males and females will
be considered more equal. Maternal employment, if found to produce
more nontraditional gender role attitudes, will also produce less gender
stereotypes among pre-seventh grade and post-seventh grade students.
The research suggests that as maternal employment status increases scores
of androgyny, having both masculine and feminine scores will be reported
by children will increase for themselves as well as of the opposite sex
in comparison to children of mothers who are not employed.
consent forms were distributed to 50 fifth graders and 50 eighth graders
(see Appendix A). Age of participants ranged from 10-15 years of
age. Twenty-two, fifth graders and 5 eighth graders obtained parental
permission. The parent questionnaire was again distributed to another
50 eighth graders of which 32 were returned indicating consent. Sixteen
fifth graders reported living in a two-parent home and could therefore
supply data to the study, 7 were male and 9 female. Out of the 34
possible eighth graders fitting criteria of 2 parents in the home, 16 were
chosen randomly for comparison purposes (seven males and 9 females).
The students were from a rural middle-school housing fifth through 8th
grade in a New England town. The participants were further divided
into those with an employed mother (by status) either not working outside
the home; working in a blue collar job; working in a pink collar or support
staff career; or holding a professional level job based upon their children's
reports on a questionnaire.
Sex Roles Inventory-Short Form (CSRI), developed by Janet Boldizar in 1991
was used to measure androgyny (see Appendix B). The CSRI lists twenty
characteristics which are culturally defined as gender appropriate, ten
are masculine statements and ten are feminine. Ten fillers are also
presented in the CSRI. The CSRI was created by Boldizar to model
the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) created by Sandra Bem in 1971.
The CSRI makes use of the adjectives used in the BSRI, such as "independent"
and "compassionate" by putting them into sentence form in a way which makes
them more comprehensive for children. For example, the BSRI uses
the word "assertive", the CSRI uses "It's easy for me to tell people what
I think, even when I know they will probably disagree with me" (Boldizar,
1991; p. 5). Participants are asked to respond to the statements
by rating themselves on the following four-point scale: 1 = not at all
true of me, 2 = a little true of me, 3 = mostly true of me, 4 = very true
of me. The CSRI has demonstrated high construct validity which
was demonstrated by measures of sex-typed toy and activity preference,
self-perceptions of global self-worth, scholastic competence, social acceptance,
athletic competence, physical attractiveness, behavioral conduct and cognitive
performance (Boldizar, 1991). The CSRI reports a reliability of alpha
= .81 on internal consistency. The CSRI short form highly correlates
with the original form at r = .84 (Boldizar, 1991). The CSRI also
correlates with the BSRI (r = .88) and therefore can be used to assess
children's gender roles at a comparable level to those of adults taking
the BSRI. In addition to the CSRI given to measure children's gender
roles, another form was given to the participants to measure stereotypes.
In order to measure stereotypes the CSRI statements were changed from "I"
statements to statements which questioned their likeness of the opposite
sex. Statements such as "I can control a lot of the kids in my class"
were changed to "Females can control a lot of the kids in their class"
for males to respond to and "Males can control a lot of the kids in their
class" for females to respond to. The CSRI was not intended to be
used in this way therefore there is no report on the validity or reliability
although it would seem to have not changed greatly from that of the CSRI.
to the CSRI, a questionnaire was given to the students in order to assess
background information regarding themselves and their families (see Appendix
C). In addition to measuring maternal employment, participant's age
when the mother began working, mother's educational level, participant's
projected educational attainment and career plans were also assessed in
the questionnaire and measured as variables.
the child consent form was distributed to the students (see Appendix D)
and read aloud to them in order for them to give assent in addition to
the parental consent that had been received prior to the testing
date. After students signed the child consent form it was collected.
The researcher distributed a packet containing the background information
questionnaire and the CSRI self and the CSRI of the opposite sex of the
participant to a group of students in a classroom. The questionnaire
was read aloud to the fifth graders in order to assist their reading ability.
The test was later repeated similarly to other classrooms of fifth and
eighth grade students. The directions were read aloud to the participants
from an experimental script (see Appendix E) so as to eliminate any miscommunication
or bias. The participants were asked to respond to what degree the
statements on the CSRI characterizes himself or herself. This measure
was used to interpret the participants' gender roles. A second copy
of the CSRI was given, in which the participant was asked to respond as
he/she believed was characteristic of the opposite sex. This measure
was used to evaluate sex role stereotypes.
of the survey participants were debriefed as to the exact nature of the
study (see Appendix F).
In order to
determine if there was a difference in how children rated themselves on
the Children's Sex Role Inventory (CSRI) and how they ranked the opposite
sex, the two scores were subtracted to find the difference reported for
self and opposite sex. In order to assess the relationship between
mother's employment and her children's gender roles and stereotypes, maternal
employment status was ranked by 1= stay at home mom; 2= blue collar profession;
3= pink collar or support staff; 4= professional level. Level of
the occupation was determined using the Statistical Abstract of the United
States, issued by the US Census Bureau (1999). A multivariate analysis
of variance (MANOVA) was run to assess the relationship between mother's
employment and her child's gender roles whether male or female on the CSRI.
Another MANOVA was run surveying the change that took place over time,
by comparing the scores reported by fifth and eighth graders. Correlations
were run to analyze relationships between scores of participants in relation
to various factors of their mother's employment such as whether she
works part-time or full-time and how long she had been in the workforce.
The percentage female in the field of the mother's employment was also
calculated using the Statistical Abstract of the United States (US Census
Bureau, 1999) and a correlation run for children's CSRI scores.
employment did not seem to be a factor in reported differences between
masculine, feminine and neutral difference scores between self and opposite
sex regardless of gender. One reason for lack of significant findings
could be the small subject size reported for the stay at home moms (n=3).
This result is contradictory to the proposed hypothesis that as maternal
employment status goes up that children will report less gender stereotypes.
These children reported gender stereotypes overall regardless of mother's
Mean scores by gender on Children's Sex Role Inventory
(CSRI) sub scales of masculinity, femininity, and total differences between
self scores and opposite sex scores in comparison to mother's employment
Masc. Fem. Op. Masc.
Op. Fem. Total Masc. Total
Fem. Total Dif.
1.00 N= 1
2.00 N= 3
3.00 N= 10
4.00 N= 9
1.00 N= 3
2.00 N= 6
3.00 N= 8
4.00 N= 9
Mothers employment status:
1= stay at home; 2= blue collar; 3= pink collar;
4= professional/white collar
1= not at all true of me; 2= a little true of
me; 3= mostly true of me; 4= very true of me
Masc.= scores on the masculine statements for
Fem.= scores on the feminine statements for self
Op. Masc.= scores on the masculine statements
for the opposite sex
Op. Fem.= scores on the feminine statements for
the opposite sex
Total Masc.= masculine self statements - masculine
opposite sex statements
Total Fem.= feminine self statements - feminine
opposite sex statements
Total Dif.= masculine/feminine self statements
- masculine/feminine opposite sex statements
A two (gender)
by two (grade) MANOVA was conducted to assess the total difference in scores
on the CSRI between groups. There was significance found for gender
F(1,28)=18.61, p<.05 and for grade, F(1,28)=8.70, p<.05, however
no significant interaction was reported between gender and grade on total
difference on the CSRI. In looking at the means eighth graders were
more likely to support gender differences. They reported greater
differences between themselves and the opposite sex. The mean difference
for fifth grade was .375 meaning that they scored the opposite sex differently
than themselves yet the eighth graders scored the opposite sex more differently
reporting a mean of -.625. A review of the means indicates that both
male and female eighth graders reported stereotypes in their scoring with
girls also reporting higher gender roles than males. Additionally,
it was found that males were more likely to report differences on the CSRI
with a mean of -.936 while females had a mean difference of -.506.
Males actually did not demonstrate stereotypes but rather the opposite.
Males scored females higher on the masculinity statements causing the large
difference and the findings of significance. Females scored males higher
on the feminine questions and also accounts for some of the reported difference.
Mean difference in total scores on the CSRI for
gender and grade.
Note. * p< .05
Higher, negative scores indicate the presence
the hypothesis that the older the child the more likely they are to adopt
gender roles and stereotypes that are in accordance with societal expectation.
In addition to total differences reported, significance was reported for
gender on the feminine scales, F(1,28)= 76.67,p<.05. Girls
reported higher gender roles which was indicated by their mean scores on
the feminine statements and they were more likely to give males low scores
on the feminine questions suggesting the presence of stereotypes.
Mean difference in feminine scores on the CSRI
for gender and grade.
.619 .853 1.57
Note. * p< .05
Higher negative scores indicate the presence
evoked some emotion as grade was a factor in how children responded F(1,28)=9.23,
p<.05. No significance was reported for the masculine statements
for grade or gender. Interestingly when comparing the means, males
scored higher on the feminine questions than they did on the masculine
at which the mother began working outside the home was shown to be approaching
significance (r=-.233, p>.10) in terms of her children CSRI scores.
The longer the mother worked outside the home the more likely the child
was to report differences between self and the opposite sex on the CSRI.
This would indicate that the younger the child is when the mother begins
working the less they stereotype. This supports the hypothesis that
children with working mothers will report fewer stereotypes. Total
scores on the CSRI were also correlated for both males and females with
the career that they chose to enter into in the future r=.258, p<.10.
This would indicate, contrary to expectation, that children who reported
more traditional career plans presented with fewer stereotypes. Although
males and females combined did not have a relationship in scores to socioeconomic
status, male scores were correlated r=.428, p<.05. This supports
the hypothesis that the greater the socioeconomic status (i.e. higher levels
of employment) the less likely males were to stereotype the opposite sex.
Correlations between total difference on CSRI
scores by gender on variables related to mother's employment.
Mom's Occ. % Fem. Age Work
SES Ch. % Fem.
Males and Females
Note: * = p<.05
+ = p<.10
++ = approaching p<.10
Mom's Occ. = mother's occupational status
% Fem. = the percentage of women in the mother's
Age Work = age child was when mother began working
outside the home
SES = socioeconomic status
Ch. % Fem. = percentage female in the field of
the child's future career choice
hypothesis of this study was that mother's employment would predict the
gender roles and gender stereotypes of her children. As mother's
employment status increased from non- working to professional level work
it was predicted that the gender roles and stereotypes of her children
would decrease. This hypothesis was not supported in this study.
The hypothesis that grade and age would also be predictors of scores reported
on the Children's Sex Role Inventory (CSRI) was validated in some cases
in this study. The literature has stated that stronger gender roles
are adopted around grade seven (Alfieri, Ruble & Higgins, 1996), therefore
this study chose to examine the differences in fifth and eighth graders
scores on the CSRI. As predicted by the literature eighth graders
were more likely to stereotype than were fifth graders overall on all sub
scales; masculinity, femininity and neutral combined. Girls were
more likely than boys to stereotype the opposite sex, regardless of grade.
hypothesis, that mother's employment status would be a predictor of gender
roles and stereotypes, was not supported in this study. One major
reason was due to the fact that only four students reported having a "stay
at home mom" out of a sample of 49 students and three happened to be reported
by female participants. This would not allow for accurate comparison
across mother's employment status nor across gender. Whether the
participant's mother worked part-time or full-time also had no significant
impact on the gender roles or stereotypes reported. Again the sample
size for part-time working mothers was considerably smaller than for full-time
employed mothers. Twelve participants reported having a part-time
working mother whereas 33 reported full-time.
In addition to the status
of the mother's employment on a ranking of stay at home to professional
level, the percent female in the mother's job was calculated. A correlation
was run to assess the relationship between percent female of mother's employment
and the total difference reported on the CSRI between the self and the
opposite sex on all sub scales. No significant findings were found.
This would indicate that having a mother in a traditional or nontraditional
female career would not influence children's gender roles and stereotypes.
The average percent female of the mother's occupation was reported to be
77.1% and was calculated using US Census Report data (1999).
expected in this study and the findings of other studies of mother's employment
that in addition to status of the employment position, how often the mother
worked, and the percentage of females in the mother's career field would
impact children's gender roles. Although no significant findings
were found the means were inspected to see if they were in the predicted
direction. Interestingly, upon further exploration of the mother's
employment in relation to the mean scores on the CSRI, it was found that
girls whose mothers did not work reported the highest levels of androgyny.
They scored higher on the feminine and masculine questions than did children
from dual-career families. Similarly, children from dual-career families
reported more gender stereotypes. The results of this study are contrary
to those reported by Kiecolt and Acock (1988) who found that women are
more likely to reject traditional gender roles when their mother worked.
Similar results were found in a study by Gardner and LaBrecque (1986) who
found that high school seniors reported a significant difference in scores
between children of full-time employed mother's and full-time homemakers
as children of full-time working mother's reported less traditional gender
roles. This study found the opposite, although not significant more
androgynous scores were reported by daughters of stay at home moms.
On average the children in this study, regardless of mother's employment
reported that they knew and understood the gender expectations of the opposite
sex as they reported scores indicating gender stereotypes.
could account for the fact that contrary to the literature, percent female,
time spent working and mother's status of employment did not make a significant
difference in gender role or stereotype formation. Many of the children
did not know what their mothers roles specifically were at work.
They asked questions such as "My mom is a nurse, did she go to college?"
Children who never see their mom at work probably would not understand
the importance of her job in a way in which it would impact them at this
age. It would be interesting to compare results of this survey to
a survey given after the children had gone to work with mom for a day.
At this age it also seems that children do not have a concept of what careers
are considered male or female and therefore may not be influenced by the
percent female of their mother's employment. Oftentimes mothers who
work attempt to balance that they are outside of the home most of the day
with feelings of guilt by doing all of the household chores (Garey, 1999).
Future research should investigate children's gender roles in relation
to how parents split household responsibilities. Stay at home mothers
may be taking over many chores inside and outside the home because they
are home more often. They may play the role of both parents more
than mothers who work.
that there was no significance between children of mothers working part-time
and mothers working full-time could be accounted for by the fact that the
children are in school during the hours mom is at work. This study
did not ask this question but assumes that the large majority of the participants
had mothers who worked traditional hours. "Stay at home moms" spend
only a few hours more per week with their children than do mother's who
work outside the home (Eyer, 1996). Mom probably fulfills all of
the child's morning needs and nighttime needs whether she works full-time
or part-time. Younger children who do not yet attend school and spend
time at day-care probably would demonstrate more differences. Questions
such as how much time the child spends at day-care or home alone may produce
differences in children's gender roles because it would influence their
view of their mother's career, either positively or negatively. All
but one of the children responded that they intended to have a husband
or wife who worked outside the home which may indicate that they are satisfied
with their childhood and the amount of time that they spend with their
of this study are contrary to results reported by Keith (1999) who found
that boys were less likely to desire to have a future wife who worked outside
the home when they had a mother who worked outside the home. This
study found forty-eight of forty-nine participants desired to have a husband
or wife who worked outside the home when they were married. This
supports identification theory (Kagan, 1970) in that children desire the
same for themselves a life similar to that of their parents. The
large majority of children in this study came from a dual career families
and because they probably view themselves as doing okay they desire the
same lifestyle for themselves in the future. Although contrary to
Keith (1999), the results coincide with those of Stephan and Corder (1985)
who suggested a positive feedback loop as children from dual-career families
would later have a dual-career family.
occupation was also measured as a possible variable however, like mothers
employment it was found to have no significant effects. Mother's
and father's education also demonstrated no relationship in how children
responded to the CSRI questions. Future research should further investigate
the effects of having a working father and his level of employment on children's
gender roles and stereotypes as well as attitudes regarding work.
The idea of a working father is something that has been taken for granted
and is greatly under studied. If having a working mother has been
found to impact development it seems likely that aspects of father's employment
would as well.
boys gave themselves higher scores on the female questions on the CSRI
than those reported on the masculine questions. The average score
by males for the masculine questions was 2.66 and that reported for the
feminine questions was 2.98. It can be stated that this group of
boys were less likely to adopt gender roles that accord with societal expectation.
It is also possible that the questionnaire did not portray the masculine
statements as favorably as those of the feminine questions. Girls
on the other hand, rated themselves higher than boys on the masculine questions
with an average score of 2.82 but scored themselves significantly high
on the feminine questions with an average of 3.56 out of a possible 4.00.
This sample of girls reported having strong gender roles by scoring significantly
high on feminine questions. Girls gave higher ratings than the mean
on all subscales for the self-report CSRI which may indicate that they
tended to be more liberal in scoring themselves using more 3s and 4s whereas
boys tended to avoid the extremes and report scores of 2s and 3s.
Although the girls appeared to be more liberal it may have been that the
statements on the CSRI were more appealing overall to the girls in this
sample than they were to the boys. Both male and female participants
gave similar scores on the neutral questions indicating that girls probably
did not tend to be more liberal with their scores.
created to model the Bem Sex Roles Inventory (BSRI) created by Sandra Bem
(1977) also adopts the same terminology as the BSRI to rate the participants.
Those scoring below the median on the masculine and feminine sub scales
are called undifferentiated. This is the label given to the males
in this study. They did not demonstrate scores that indicated stronger
than average gender roles in either the masculine or feminine direction.
The group of girls studied reported scores indicating they were gender
polarized in the feminine direction however, because they scored above
the median on the masculine scale they are termed androgynous, having both
male and female gender roles. The differences reported for
the opposite sex on the second taking of the CSRI indicate different results.
was not designed to be used to measure stereotypes. This study changed
the second copy given from "I" statements to "Female" statements for males
and "Male" statements for females (See Appendix B). On the CSRI given
to females regarding the gender roles of males, females scored males considerably
lower than themselves on the feminine questions and higher than themselves
on the masculine questions. This would indicate that this sample
of girls on average, stereotype males into traditional gender roles.
Males on the other hand scored females higher on both the masculine and
feminine questions on the CSRI for the opposite sex. This indicates
that this sample of boys do not adopt stereotypes in the same way that
girls do. This sample of boys reported gender role scores in the
direction of feminine polarized as they scored themselves higher on the
female questions than the masculine questions, for this reason it would
seem that the boys did not see the questions as they were intended.
The masculine questions may have seemed too masculine and the feminine
questions more favorable for themselves and more likely to be true of girls.
presented a significant impact on stereotyping scores reported. Students
in the eighth grade scored significantly higher on the second copy of the
CSRI surveying the impressions they had about the opposite sex. This
would indicate that eighth graders are more likely to stereotype.
Clearly, as children become older they have increased exposure to gender
appropriate messages which may cause them to report greater stereotyping.
It follows that they also reported to have adopted stronger gender roles.
Age was a significant factor in how children responded to the questionnaire.
Although there was no interaction found between gender and grade on the
CSRI scores, in looking at the means eighth grade girls reported especially
high scores on the feminine questions. In early adolescence
it appears children become more gender polarized. This further supports
the literature (Alfieri, Ruble & Higgins, 1996; Pipher, 1994) that
as children grow older they are more likely to adopt stronger gender roles
and stereotypes. The difference between fifth and eighth grade scores
also supports the belief that seventh grade typically marks the adoption
of gender roles and stereotypes.
to gender and grade a correlation was run assessing the stereotypes of
children to when the mother began working outside the home. Although
the correlation was only approaching significance at the p<.10 level
it is in the right direction and supports the hypothesis. The longer the
mother worked outside the home the less likely the child was to report
stereotypes. Therefore, the younger the child was when mom began
working the less likely the child was to report differences between self
and the opposite sex. Having a working mother may have more of an
effect than much of this studies results have shown. Further research
using a larger sample size may show more clear results on this issue.
participant pool of 49 subjects was used to assess the relationship between
the child's future goals and the percent female of the child's chosen occupation.
Children were more likely to choose careers that were traditionally of
the same gender as themselves. The percent female of the careers
chosen by males was 29.6% whereas the percent female of the girls professions
was 48.3%. The percent female of the reported careers of mother's
was 77.1%, considerably higher than that which was reported by their daughters.
Castellino, Lerner, Lerner and von Eye (1998) reported that they found
girls to have similar goals as their mother, this study supports this in
that these girls do tend to report female careers, however it is to a much
lesser degree than that of their mothers careers. This may mean that
girls are more likely to enter into nontraditional roles or that over time
girls adopt career plans which are more in accordance with gender expectations.
As gender roles and stereotypes are predicted to increase over age it is
likely that girls career plans will be affected by this and they will choose
more gender specific careers. All but two of the forty-nine participants
reported that they intended to go one to some form of higher education
in response to the question, "Do you intend to go to college?" The
most common answer among females for future career plans was veterinarian,
males did not have a most common answer as they reported a range of careers.
Interestingly, a correlation was found between percent female of chosen
occupation and stereotypes reported. Children who reported fewer
stereotypes were more likely to choose traditional careers. This
is contrary to expectation, however clearly points to the fact that children
have limited knowledge regarding their mother's careers and quite possibly
limited exposure to careers in general.
found that while contrary to the hypothesis, that the female participants
in this study who had a stay at home mom reported more androgynous mean
scores although the findings were not significant. Girls reported
more androgynous gender roles while boys were undifferentiated scoring
below the median on both the masculine and feminine scales.
Eighth graders had stronger gender roles than fifth graders. Both
males and females reported gender stereotypes. Eighth grade boys
were more likely to present stereotypes than were fifth grade boys.
Girls were equally as likely to adopt stereotypes no matter what grade.
The participants reported career plans in accordance with gender, girls
reporting more traditionally female careers than boys however significantly
less traditional than the careers reported for their mothers.
that occurred in the research that may have contributed to the findings
was the lack of participants. Fifty parent consent forms were sent
to fifth graders of which a total of 22 were returned. One indicating
that they would not permit their child to participate and another requested
more information of which the consent was not given once the information
was supplied. Fifty parent-consent forms were sent home with eighth
graders of which only 6 responded favorably. An additional fifty
were sent out and this time the teachers of these students supplied incentive
to bring them back signed of which an additional thirty-six responded.
The difficulty in obtaining subjects may indicate that those who replied
are in some way different from those who did not. The non-participants
suggested that they did not return the consent form because their parent's
did not want them to participate in the study.
the CSRI is designed for children as young as third grade (Boldizar, 1991),
many of the fifth graders had difficulty understanding the content of the
questions. Many of the same questions were raised by participants,
such as "What does this mean?" Fifth graders were especially concerned
as to how to respond to questions regarding the opposite sex. Many
of the participants asked "How am I to know what a boy or girl is thinking?"
The length of the survey questions are also of concern. In addition
to the twelve background questions, 60 CSRI questions were also asked and
many of the fifth graders expressed concern over the large number of questions.
for this survey relied on self-report by the participants, who ranged in
age from ten to fifteen years old. Many gave extremely vague answers
to the questions regarding mother's employment and did not know exactly
what her position was at her place of employment. Based upon the
answer given to mother's occupation and the educational level, the researcher
was left to speculate on many of questionnaires as to what position the
mother actually held whether management or support staff and what status
the position would fall into. This also influenced the percent female
of the mother's occupation although neither percent female nor employment
status had significant effects on children's CSRI scores.
this study surveyed children it did not factor in socioeconomic status
as a variable. Family socioeconomic status could have accounted for
some of the results. Children whose mother's did not have to work
as a source of second income may have viewed gender roles differently from
those whose mothers had to work to add additional financial support.
The population surveyed appeared to be predominantly middle-class with
a small amount of diversity. There was a range of educational and
occupational levels reported for both parents. In order to account
for socioeconomic status without having obtained factual information regarding
this, this study added together the status of both the mother's and father's
occupation by totaling the status of the parents reported careers; 0 =
stay at home to 4 = professional level. Those with higher totals most likely
have higher incomes. Significant results were found for males on
the CSRI scores in relation to socioeconomic status. Boys who had
higher economic status as measured as above were less likely to report
stereotypes. This supports the hypothesis that as status of employment
position goes up (i.e. higher economic status), the stereotypes of children
will decrease. Future research however, should study this as a variable
by having parents report it in the background information.
research should focus on gaining a larger sample size of children overall
as well as larger sample of children who have a stay at home mother, in
order to get more valid results. It is also the recommendation of
this researcher that background information be obtained by the parents
of the child in order to get more accurate reporting. The scale used
to measure gender roles and stereotypes was designed to measure gender
roles however, the current study created an alternate form which was used
to measure stereotypes by comparison of scores. Future research may
want to use an actual gender stereotype measure which has been found valid
and reliable. How parents share household responsibility may prove
interesting in looking at children's gender roles and stereotypes.
It may be interesting to look across other age groups using both the CSRI
and the Bem Sex Roles Inventory (BSRI) as the CSRI has been correlated
with the BSRI to be used on children. Longitudinal research or even
cross-sectional research among children, teen-agers and adults could prove
of this study are important in that children are adopting gender roles
and stereotypes no matter whether or not their mother works outside the
home, and no matter what position the mother occupies in employment.
It seems essential that children be educated as to the similarities between
sexes and the possibilities which exist for both males and females.
The research indicates that seventh grade marks a period of major change
in children's gender role development as they adopt gender roles and stereotypes
more in accordance with societal expectation. Maybe the differences
in how boys and girls are treated is more clear and understandable at this
age. Girls may be going out baby-sitting at this age and boys off
to play competitive sports for their middle school. There is
a great need to treat children alike no matter what sex they are.
Why is it that boys do not go baby-sitting? Why do girls always tend
to feel less valued? At this age there is a need for education and
discussion. Children are just entering the stage of abstract thought
and maybe are just now able to comprehend the roles in which society intends
for them. Schools, teachers and parents should address these issues
with their children so that they are aware of the stereotypes and expectations
but also realize that there are alternatives. The children
in this study did not appear to understand what their mothers did for work.
It is recommended from the results of this study that mothers take their
sons and daughters to work in order expose them to career options as well
as to let them know where their mom is all day and what she is doing.
Teachers could do more with informing children of their career options
as well. Lectures by parents regarding their careers or looking at
different career possibilities each week could be imformative for children
and expose them to nontraditional career choices.
everyone who interacts with children should realize that each of us contributes
to the socialization of children. Mother's employment is just a small
factor in the development of gender roles and stereotypes. As a society
we treat boys and girls differently. We shape children's gender roles
by positive reinforcement of gender appropriate behaviors and negative
reinforcement of gender inappropriate behaviors. The toys we choose
for children and the chores we expect them to accomplish are all factors
which contribute to gender role formation. Directly, or indirectly
we are teaching our children how to act in accordance with societal expectation
and thereby limiting them. We teach them that acting in accordance
with societal expectation is right and to act in anyway contradictory is
wrong. When we say this we teach our children to stereotype.
Someone who does not act in accordance with expectation is different and
is often teased with words like "tomboy" and "sissy". We need to
encourage children and tell them that they are valued equally and that
they are just as capable and free to choose any career they want and act
anyway they want.
essential to learn from this study is the importance of more research in
this area. The way in which the mother and father interact at home
and how the household chores are divided may in fact be of greater importance
in gender development. The relationship between children whose mother's
stay at home and mother's who work is an area to be explored further.
The influence of the father's employment in terms of children's gender
role development should also be examined in future research. From
these findings we do know that children often are not sure what their mother
does when she leaves for work. Children do not know the importance
of mom's career nor whether she is in a traditional career or not and therefore,
did not appear to be affected positively or negatively. Children may be
greatly influenced by a "Take your child to work day" as it may be of value
to the child to see the importance of mom outside of being his/her mother.
Due to the lack of significance found in areas regarding mothers employment
it seems apparent that no matter whether a mother works part-time or full-time,
outside the home or not it will not strongly affect her child in terms
of gender roles. Children were not seen to be affected strongly either
way if their mother worked outside the home or not or whether their mother
worked part-time or full-time. The results of this study, while calling
for more research also suggest that mother's who work have nothing to feel
guilty about in terms of their children's gender role development.
Children are adopting gender roles and learning stereotypes from many places
and it is essential that as parent's and teachers that we talk to our children
about these beliefs and help them to better understand where they come
from. It is also important that we give children experiences that
go beyond the gender roles that are expected.
Alfieri T., Ruble
D.N., & Higgins, E.T (1996). Gender stereotypes during adolescents:
Developmental changes and the transition to junior high school. Developmental
Psychology, 32, 1129-1137.
& Walters, R.H. (1963). Social Learning and Personality Development.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
(1976). What are Little Girls Made Of? The Roots of Feminine Stereotypes.
Schocken Books: New York.
Bem, S.L. (1993).
Lenses of Gender: Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality.
Yale University: New Haven.
(1991). Assessing sex typing and androgyny in children: The
children's sex role inventory. Developmental
Psychology, 27(3), 505-515.
Deaux, K. &
Major, B. (1990). A social psychological model of gender. In
D. L. Rhode (Ed.), Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference
(pp. 89-99). London: Yale University Press London.
Eyer, D. (1996).
New York: Random House.
& LaBreque, S. (1986). Effects of maternal employment on sex
role orientation of adolescents. Adolescence, 11(84),
(1999). Weaving Work and Motherhood. Philadelphia:
Temple University Press.
(1993). Self-fulfilling prophecies: A social psychological
view of gender. In A. E. Beall & R. J. Sternberg
(Eds.), The Psychology of Gender, (pp. 9-54).
New York: Guilford Press.
Holt, C.L. &
Ellis, J.B. (1998). Assessing the current validity of the Bem Sex-Role
Inventory. Sex Roles, 39(11/12), 929-941.
Kagan, J. (1970).
The concept of Identification. In P.H. Mussen, J. J. Conger &
J. Kagan (Eds.), Readings in Child Development and Personality
(2nd ed.). (pp. 315-326). New York: Harper
(1988). The relationship of self-esteem, maternal employment, and
work-family plans to sex role orientations of late adolescents.
& Acock, A.C. (1988). The long term effects of family structure
on gender-role attitudes. Journal of Marriage and
the Family, 50(9), 709-717.
& Ullman, D.Z. (1974). Stages in the development of psychosexual
concepts and attitudes. In R.C. Friedman, R. M. Richart
& R.L. Vande Weile (Eds.). Sex Differences in Behavior,
(pp. 209-222). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
(1994). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent
Girls. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
(1992). Attitude similarity between mothers and children regarding
maternal employment. Journal of Marriage and the Family,
& Corder, J. (1985). The effects of dual-career families on adolescents'
sex-role attitudes, work and family plans, and choices of important
others. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47(9), 921-929.
Census Bureau (1999). Statistical Abstract of the United States:
The National Data Book (119th ed.). Washington, DC:
US Government Printing Office.
Weitz, S. (1977).
Sex Roles: Biological, Psychological, and Social Foundations.
Oxford University Press: New York.
M.C. & Nock, S.L. (1994). The influence of maternal employment
on the gender role attitudes of men and women. Sex Roles, 30,
Thesis homepage, see other theses: http://www.anselm.edu/internet/psych/senrdb.html
To read more about gender roles and stereotypes
To read about gender stereotyping in children's