Sex Roles

, Volume 27, Issue 7–8, pp 377–390

Preschoolers' beliefs about sex and age differences in emotionality

  • Mariss Karbon
  • Richard A. Fabes
  • Gustavo Carlo
  • Carol Lynn Martin


The goal of the present study was to assess preschoolers' beliefs about the frequency and intensity with which boys, girls, women, and men experience anger, sadness, and happiness. Sixty-seven middle-class preschool children (35 girls, 32 boys) were presented with drawings of adult and child figures of each sex, and were asked to rate how frequently and intensely the emotions were felt (91% of the children were white; the remainder were primarily black). Children's gender stereotyped beliefs were particularly strong for sadness and appeared to be based on a deficit-experience model for males. Sex of target differences also were found for children's beliefs about anger (favoring males). However, the sex difference in anger was based more on the degree to which anger is believed to be experienced rather than on differences in beliefs regarding males' and females' capacity to experience anger. Age of target differences were also found for sadness and anger, but not for happiness. It was concluded that preschoolers' beliefs about differences in emotions are complex, and vary as a function of the sex and age of the target person, and as a function of the specific emotion.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariss Karbon
    • 1
  • Richard A. Fabes
    • 1
  • Gustavo Carlo
    • 1
  • Carol Lynn Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Family Resources and Human DevelopmentArizona State UniversityTempe

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