Sex Roles

, Volume 70, Issue 9–10, pp 416–430 | Cite as

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Gender Stereotype!: Longitudinal Associations Between Superhero Viewing and Gender Stereotyped Play

  • Sarah M. CoyneEmail author
  • Jennifer Ruh Linder
  • Eric E. Rasmussen
  • David A. Nelson
  • Kevin M. Collier
Original Article


Although content analyses have found that superhero programs in the media portray strong gender stereotypes of masculinity, little research has examined the effects of viewing such programs. In the current study, 134 mothers of preschool children (from the Western and Northwestern United States) reported their child’s superhero exposure in the media, male-stereotyped play, weapon play, and parental active mediation of the media at two time points (1 year apart). Results revealed that boys viewed superhero programs more frequently than girls, with nearly a quarter of boys viewing superhero programs at least weekly. Analyses revealed that superhero exposure was related to higher levels of male-stereotyped play for boys and higher levels of weapon play for both boys and girls from Time 1 to Time 2, even after controlling for initial levels. Parental active mediation did not negate these effects, and even served to strengthen one finding for girls. Specifically, among girls with high superhero exposure, weapon play was highest for girls who received frequent active mediation. Implications of the results are discussed with a focus on whether such programs are developmentally appropriate for preschool children.


Gender stereotypes Play Superhero Media Weapon Parental mediation 



We would like to acknowledge the Women’s Research Initiative at BYU for financially supporting this project. We would also like to thank all the student research assistants for their help throughout the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah M. Coyne
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer Ruh Linder
    • 2
  • Eric E. Rasmussen
    • 3
  • David A. Nelson
    • 1
  • Kevin M. Collier
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Family LifeBrigham Young UniversityProvoUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLinfield CollegeMcMinnvilleUSA
  3. 3.College of Media & CommunicationTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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