Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2017

Keywords

Children, Sexual and gender issues, Adults Behavior, Gender discrimination, Teachers, Infants, Parenting behavior

Abstract

While there is substantial evidence that adults who violate gender stereotypes often face backlash (i.e. social and economic penalties), less is known about the nature of gender stereotypes for young children, and the penalties that children may face for violating them. We conducted three experiments, with over 2000 adults from the US, to better understand the content and consequences of adults’ gender stereotypes for young children. In Experiment 1, we tested which characteristics adults (N = 635) believed to be descriptive (i.e. typical), prescriptive (i.e. required), and proscriptive (i.e. forbidden) for preschool-aged boys and girls. Using the characteristics that were rated in Experiment 1, we then constructed vignettes that were either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, and manipulated whether the vignettes were said to describe a boy or a girl. Experiment 2 (N = 697) revealed that adults rated stereotype-violating children as less likeable than their stereotype-conforming peers, and that this difference was more robust for boys than girls. Experiment 3 (N = 731) was a direct replication of Experiment 2, and revealed converging evidence of backlash against stereotype-violating children. In sum, our results suggest that even young children encounter backlash from adults for stereotype violations, and that these effects may be strongest for boys.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0195503

Volume

13

Issue

4

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