, Volume 33, Issue 9-10, pp 687-701

Parents' gender-stereotyped perceptions of Newborns: The Eye of the Beholder revisited

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Abstract

This study sought to update and extend J. Z. Rubin, F. J. Provenzano, and Z. Luria's [(1974) “The Eye of the Beholder: Parents' Views on Sex of Newborns,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, Vol. 44, pp. 512–519] findings that parents rated and described their newborn infants in gender-stereotyped terms, with fathers being more extreme than mothers in differentiating between sons and daughters. The 40 pairs of predominantly Caucasian parents in the present study rated newborn girls as finer featured, less strong, more delicate, and more feminine than newborn boys, but did not distinguish between girls and boys when freely describing their newborns. The parents' gender-stereotyped ratings persisted across a 1-week time interval. The current group of fathers did not show greater gender stereotyping than mothers. The conclusion is that parents' gender stereotyped perceptions of newborns have recently declined, especially among fathers, but have not disappeared.

A preliminary version of these data was presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies in Washington, D.C., April 1988. We appreciate the cooperation of staff and patients at West Virginia University Hospital and Monongalia General Hospital in Morgantown, WV, and Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA.