, Volume 20, Issue 9-10, pp 501-522

Sex stereotyping of infants: A review of gender labeling studies

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Abstract

Studies that have addressed the question of whether adults and children respond differently to male and female infants because of actual differences in the infants or because of preconceived sex stereotypes are reviewed, and the overall conclusions from these studies are evaluated. Twenty-three studies were identified in which neutrally clothed infant stimuli were labeled male in some conditions and female in other conditions. The strength and consistency of gender labeling effects on perceptions and behaviors in these studies were appraised. The results indicate that knowledge of an infant's gender is not a consistent determinant of adults' reactions, but more strongly influences young children's reactions. The implications of these findings for research on early sex role socialization are considered.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the meetings of the American Psychological Association, August 1986, Washington, DC. We would like to thank the anonymous reviewer whose comments facilitated improvements in this review.