Gender Issues

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 61–86 | Cite as

Gender inequality in childhood: Toward a life course perspective

  • Dawn Michelle Baunach


Gender inequality does not begin with adulthood, yet scholarship has dealt most appreciably with indicators summarizing patterns for adults. Life course differences need to be recognized and incorporated into the study of gender inequality. I propose various societal practices (such as female infanticide, harsher punishment, social ceremonies, and inclusion) and beliefs (such as son preference, affection, and evaluation) as cross-cultural indicators of gender inequality in childhood. The analysis of preindustrial societies in the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (Murdock and White, 1969) finds that childhood gender inequality is related to hunger, warfare, patrilocality, and the economic contribution and control of women. Childhood gender inequality shares some similarities with adulthood gender inequality but differs in theoretically relevant ways; for example, familial explanations, which are often relegated to secondary status in gender inequality theory, are high-lighted. The implications of focusing on childhood and the life course for gender inequality theory are discussed.


Gender Inequality Gender Issue Economic Contribution Gender Stratification Guttman Scale 
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© Transaction Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlanta

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