Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 55, Issue 11–12, pp 757–765 | Cite as

Gender Stereotyping and Under-representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children’s Picture Books: A Twenty-first Century Update

  • Mykol C. Hamilton
  • David Anderson
  • Michelle Broaddus
  • Kate Young
Original Article

Abstract

Gender stereotyping and under-representation of girls and women have been documented in children’s picture books in the past, in the hope that improvements would follow. Most researchers have analyzed award-winning books. We explored sexism in top selling books from 2001 and a 7-year sample of Caldecott award-winning books, for a total of 200 books. There were nearly twice as many male as female title and main characters. Male characters appeared 53% more times in illustrations. Female main characters nurtured more than male main characters did, and they were seen in more indoor than outdoor scenes. Occupations were gender stereotyped, and more women than men appeared to have no paid occupation. Few differences were found between Caldecott award books and other books. A comparison of our book sample to 1980s and 1990s books did not reveal reduced sexism. The persistence of sexism in picture books and implications for children and parents are discussed.

Keywords

Children’s literature Gender stereotyping Female under-representation 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank undergraduate assistants Nate Olson and Ashley Vinsel for their invaluable assistance.

References

  1. Allen, A. M., Allen, D. N., & Sigler, G. (1993). Changes in sex-role stereotyping in Caldecott Medal Award Picture Books 1938–1988. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 7, 67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, D. A., & Hamilton, M. C. (2005). Gender role stereotyping of parents in children’s picture books: The invisible father. Sex Roles, 52, 145–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashton, E. (1978). The effect of sex-role stereotyped picture books on the play behavior of three- and four-year-old children. Dissertation Abstracts International, 39, 1310.Google Scholar
  4. Axelrod, A. (2000). Pigs at odds. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, M. A. (1986). Sex bias in the helping behavior presented in children’s picture books. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 147, 343–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barry, R. (2000). Mr. Willowby’s christmas tree. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  7. Bridwell, N. (1999). Clifford’s first school day. New York: Scholastic.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, R., Guilmain, J., Saucier, P. K., & Tavarez, J. (2003). Two steps forward, one step back: The presence of female characters and gender stereotyping in award-winning picture books between the 1930s and the 1960s. Sex Roles, 49, 439–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole, C. M., Hill, F. A., & Dayley, L. F. (1983). Do masculine pronouns used generically lead to thoughts of men? Sex Roles, 19, 785–798.Google Scholar
  10. Collins, L. J., Ingoldsby, B. B., & Dellmann, M. M. (1984). Sex-role stereotyping in children’s literature: A change from the past. Childhood Education, 60, 278–285.Google Scholar
  11. Dellman-Jenkins, M., Florjancic, L., & Swadener, E. B. (1993). Sex roles and cultural diversity in recent award-winning picture books for young children. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 7(2), 74–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dougherty, W. H., & Engel, R. E. (1987). An 80s look for sex equality in Caldecott winners and honor books. Reading Teacher, 40, 394–398.Google Scholar
  13. Fisher, E. (1976). The second sex, junior division. In M. L. White (Ed.), Children’s literature: Criticism and response. Columbus, OH: Merrill.Google Scholar
  14. Gilkow, L. (2000). Hopping hens here! New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  15. Goffman, E. (1976). Gender advertisements. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  16. Hamilton, M. C. (1991). Masculine bias in the attribution of personhood: People = male, male = people. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 15, 393–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heintz, K. E. (1987). An examination of the sex- and occupational-role presentations of female characters in children’s picture books. Women’s Studies in Communication, 10, 67–68.Google Scholar
  18. Kinman, J. R., & Henderson, D. L. (1985). An analysis of sexism in Newbery Medal Award books from 1977 to 1984. Reading Teacher, 38, 885–889.Google Scholar
  19. Kolbe, R., & LaVoie, J. C. (1981). Sex-role stereotyping in preschool children’s picture books. Social Psychology Quarterly, 44, 369–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kortenhaus, C. M., & Demarest, J. (1993). Gender role stereotyping in children’s literature: An update. Sex Roles, 28, 219–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lambdin, J. R., Greer, K. M., Jibotian, K. S., Wood, K. R., & Hamilton, M. C. (2003). The animal = male hypothesis: Children’s and adults’ beliefs about the sex of non-sex-specific stuffed animals. Sex Roles, 48, 471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McDonald, S. M. (1989). Sex bias in the representation of male and female characters in children’s picture books. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 150, 389–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nilsen, A. P. (1971). Women in children’s literature. College English, 32, 918–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nilsen, A. P. (1978). Five factors contributing to the unequal treatment of females in children’s picture books. Top of the News, 34, 255–259.Google Scholar
  25. Oskamp, S., Kaufman, K., & Wolterbeek, L. A. (1996). Gender role portrayals in preschool picture books. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11(5), 27–39.Google Scholar
  26. Peterson, S. B., & Lach, M. A. (1990). Gender stereotypes in children’s books: Their prevalence and influence on cognitive and affective development. Gender and Education, 2, 185–197.Google Scholar
  27. Powlishta, K. K., Serbin, L. A., & Moller, L. C. (1993). The stability of individual differences in gender typing: Implications for understanding gender segregation. Sex Roles, 29, 723–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rachlin, S. K., & Vogt, G. L. (1974). Sex roles as presented to children in coloring books. Journal of Popular Culture, 8, 549–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rider, E. A. (2000). Our voices: Psychology of women. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  30. Schau, C. G., & Scott, K. P. (1984). Review of 21 cause and effect studies. Psychological Documents, 76, 183–193.Google Scholar
  31. Sears, D. O., Peplau, L. A., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social psychology (7th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Smeeton, C. (2001). Alligator tales: And crocodiles too! St. Gretna, LA: Pelican.Google Scholar
  33. Steptoe, J. (2001). In daddy’s arms I am tall. New York: Lee & Low.Google Scholar
  34. St. Peter, S. (1979). Jack went up the hill...but where was Jill? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 4, 256–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Tepper, C. A., & Cassidy, K. W. (1999). Gender differences in emotional language in children’s picture books. Sex Roles, 40, 265–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tognoli, J., Pullen, J., & Lieber, J. (1994). The privilege of place: Domestic and work locations of characters in children’s books. Children’s Environments, 11, 272–280.Google Scholar
  37. Turner-Bowker, D. M. (1996). Gender stereotyped descriptors in children's picture books: Does “Curious Jane” exist in the literature? Sex Roles, 35, 461–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Weitzman, L., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., & Ross, C. (1972). Sex role socialization in picture books for preschool children. American Journal of Sociology, 77, 1125–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Williams, J. A., Vernon, J. A., Williams, M. C., & Malecha, K. (1987). Sex role socialization in picture books: An update. Social Science Quarterly, 68, 148–156.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mykol C. Hamilton
    • 1
  • David Anderson
    • 1
  • Michelle Broaddus
    • 1
  • Kate Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology ProgramCentre CollegeDanvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations