This study examined the effect of nonstereotyped, same-sex role models on the self-esteem of children in Grade Three. There were 346 subjects: 315 white Australian, 15 Asian, 3 Aboriginal, 2 African, 5 Middle Eastern, and 6 European. Five groups were formed from these 346 children. Four of the groups were exposed to 12 nongender-role stereotyped stories over 4 weeks that varied from each other according to the sex of the story reader and the sex of the main character. The fifth group was a control group that was used to calculate stability and reliability. A self-concept measure was administered in a pre- and posttest format to all children. A three-way analysis of variance and subsequent analyses revealed that both girls' and boys' self-esteem increased more with same-sex role models than with the other-sex role models. In addition, girls responded better to a male role model than boys did with a female role model. The sex of the reader was irrelevant in all cases. It is concluded that since same-sex characters in storybooks can positively affect children's self-esteem, it is important for both girls and boys to have equal access to strong same-sex characters.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Adler, E. S., & Clark, R. (1991). Adolescence: A literary passage.Adolescence, 26 757–768.
Allgood-Merten, B., & Stockard, J. (1991). Sex role identity and self-esteem: A comparison of children and adolescents.Sex Roles, 25 129–139.
Alsaker, F. D. (1990).Global negative self-evaluations in early adolescence. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway.
Alsaker, F. D., & Olweus, D. (1991, July). Stability of global self-evaluations in early adolescence: A cohort longitudinal study. In R. A. Eder & L. Oppenheimer (Co-Conveners),Self-concept: Its function across the life span. Symposium conducted at the 11th Biennial Meetings of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, Minneapolis, MN.
American Association of University Women. (1991).Shortchanging girls, shortchanging America. Washington, DC: AAUW Initiative for Educational Equity. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 340657.)
American Association of University Women. (1992).Shortchanging girls, shortchanging America: A call to action. Washington, DC: AAUW Initiative for Educational Equity, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 340 659.)
Ashby, M. S., & Wittmaier, B. C. (1978). Attitude changes in children after exposure to stories about women in traditional or nontraditional occupations.Journal of Educational Psychology, 70 945–949.
Bem, S. B. (1987). Masculinity and femininity exist only in the mind of the perceiver. In J. M. Reinisch, L. A. Rosenblum, & S. A. Sanders (Eds.),Masculinity/femininity: Basic perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bogan, J. (1988). The assessment of self-esteem: A cautionary note.Australian Psychologist, 23 383–389.
Boucher, B. H., Doescher, S. M., & Sugawara, A. I. (1993). Preschool children's motor development and self-concept.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 76 11–17.
Brown, D. G. (1957). Masculinity-femininity development in children.Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21 197–202.
Burkhart, D. (1983).A sustained silent reading program designed for second grade to foster a positive reading attitude and develop the reading habit. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 257 037.)
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1984). Influence of gender constancy and social power on sex-linked modeling.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47 1292–1302.
Child, I. L., Potter, E. H., & Levine, E. M. (1946). Children's textbooks and personality development: An exploration in the social psychology of education.Psychology Monographs, 60 1–54.
Connor, J. M., & Serbin, L. A. (1978). Children's responses to stories with male and female characters.Sex Roles, 4 637–645.
Dougherty, W. H., & Engel, R. (1987). An 80s look for sex equality in Caldecott Winners and Honor Books.The Reading Teacher, 40 394–398.
Drabman, R. S., Robertson, S. J., Patterson, J. W., Jarvie, G., Hammer, D., & Cordau, G. (1981). Children's perception of media-portrayed sex roles.Sex Roles, 7 379–389.
Durkin, K., & Hutchins, G. (1984). Challenging traditional sex role stereotypes in careers education broadcasts: The reactions of young secondary school pupils.Journal of Educational Television, 10 25–33.
Fear-Fenn, M., & Kapostasy, K. K. (1992).Math + science + technology = vocational preparation for girls: A difficult equation to balance. Columbus, OH: Center for Sex Equity. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 341863.)
Fleming, D. (1983, June).The participation of women in Australian educational management—strategies for change. Paper presented to the Board of the Australian Council of Educational Administration; Brisbane, Australia.
Gaeddert, W., Kahn, A., Frevert, R., & Shirley, R. (1981).Role model choice: Who do women say their models are? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association (53rd, Detroit, MI, April 30-May 2, 1981). (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 206 986.)
Gaerity, K. (1987).Sexism in two editions of a primary reading series. Unpublished manuscript, Kean College, NJ.
Geis. F. L., Brown, V., Jennings (Walstedt), J., & Porter, N. (1984). T.V. commercials as achievement scripts for women.Sex Roles, 10 513–525.
Gelb, S. A. (1989). Language and the problem of male salience in early childhood classroom environments.Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 4 205–215.
Hall, J. A., & Halberstadt, A. G. (1980). Masculinity and femininity in children: Development of the Children's Personal Attribute Questionnaire.Developmental Psychology, 16 270–280.
Harris, M. B., & Satter, B. J. (1981). Sex-role stereotypes of kindergarten children.The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 138 49–61.
Harter, S., & Chao, C. (1992). The role of competence in children's creation of imaginary friends.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 38 350–363.
Harter, S., & Pike, R. (1984). The Pictorial Scale of Perceived Competencies and Social Acceptance for Young Children.Child Development, 55 1969–1982.
Hennessey, B. A., & Zbikowski, S. M. (1993). Immunizing children against the negative effects of reward: A further examination of intrinsic motivation training techniques.Creativity Research Journal, 6 297–307.
Hitchcock, M. E., & Tompkins, G. E. (1987). Basal readers: Are they still sexist?The Reading Teacher, 41 288–292.
Hughes, C. M., Martinek, S. A., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1985). Sex role attitudes and career choices: The role of children's self-esteem.Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 20 57–66.
Ignico, A. A. (1989). Development and verification of a gender-role stereotyping index for physical activities.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68 1067–1075.
Jeffrey, L., & Durkin, K. (1989). Children's reactions to televised counter-stereotyped male sex role behavior as a function of age, sex, and perceived power.Social Behavior, 4 285–310.
Jennings (Walstedt), J., Geis, F. L., & Brown, V. (1980). Influence of television commercials on women's self-confidence and independent judgment.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38 203–210.
Joesting, J., & Joesting, R. (1972). Sex differences in group belongingness as influenced by instructor's sex.Psychological Reports, 31 717–718.
Kaminski, D., & Sheridan, E. M. (1984). Children's perceptions of sex stereotyping: A five-year study.International Journal of Women's Studies, 7 24–36.
Katz, P. A. (1979). The development of female identity.Sex Roles, 5 155–178.
Katz, P. A. (1986). Modification of children's gender-stereotyped behavior: General issues and research considerations.Sex Roles, 14 591–602.
Katz, P. A., & Boswell, S. (1986). Flexibility and traditionality in children's gender roles.Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monographs, 112 103–147.
Keith, P. M. (1988). The relationship of self-esteem, maternal employment, and work-family plans to sex role orientations of late adolescents.Adolescence, 23 959–966.
Kelly, A., & Smail, B. (1986). Sex stereotypes and attitudes to science among eleven-year-old children.British Journal of Educational Psychology, 56 158–168.
Kolbe, R., & LaVoie, J. C. (1981). Sex-role stereotyping in preschool children's picture books.Social Psychology Quarterly, 44 369–374.
Kuhn, D., Nash, S. C., & Brucken, L. (1978). Sex role concepts of two and three year olds.Child Development, 49 445–451.
Leinbach, M. D., & Fagot, B. I. (1986). Acquisition of gender labels: A test for toddlers.Sex Roles, 15 655–666.
McArthur, L., & Eisen, S. (1976). Achievements of male and female storybook characters as determinants of achievement behavior by boys and girls.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33 467–473.
Martin, C. L., & Little, J. K. (1990). The relation of gender understanding to children's sex-typed preferences and gender stereotypes.Child Development, 61 1427–1439.
Maxwell, S. E., & Howard, G. S. (1981). Change scores—necessarily anathema?Educational and Psychological Measurement, 41 747–756.
Montemayer, R. (1974). Children's performance in a game and their attraction to it as a function of sex-typed labels.Child Development, 45 152–156.
Nadelman, L. (1970). Sex identity in London children: Memory, knowledge, and preference tests.Human Development, 13 28–42.
Ollila, L., Bullen, C., & Collis, B. (1989). Gender-related preferences for the choice of particular animals as writing topics in grade one.Journal of Research and Development in Education, 22 37–41.
Omizo, M. M., Omizo, S. A., & D'Andrea, M. J. (1992). Promoting wellness among elementary school children.Journal of Counseling and Development, 71 194–198.
O'Neil, J. M., Egan, J., Owen, S. V., & Murry, V. M. (1993). The Gender Role Journey Measure: Scale development and psychometric evaluation.Sex Roles, 28 167–185
Orr, E., & Ben-Eliahu, E. (1993). Gender differences in idiosyncratic sex-typed self-images and self-esteem.Sex Roles, 29 271–296.
Owens, C. R., & Ascione, F. R. (1991). Effects of the model's age, perceived similarity, and familiarity on children's donating.Journal of Genetic Psychology, 152 341–357.
Parish, T. S., Bryant, W. T., & Prawat, R. S. (1977). Reversing effects of sexism in elementary school girls through counter-conditioning.Journal of Instructional Psychology, 4 11–16.
Paulsen, K., & Johnson, M. (1983). Sex role attitudes and mathematical ability in fourth-, eighth-, and eleventh-grade students from a high socioeconomic area.Developmental Psychology, 19 210–214.
Peterson, C., & Peterson, J. (1986). Children and cigarettes: The effect of a model who quits.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 7 293–306.
Pierce, K., & Edwards, E. D. (1988). Children's construction of fantasy stories: Gender differences in conflict resolution strategies.Sex Roles, 18 393–404.
Potter, B. A. (1978). Sex of the protagonist in children's storybooks: Effect on self-concept.Journal on Instructional Psychology, 5 6–14.
Potter, E. F., & Rosser, S. V. (1992). Factors in life science textbooks that may deter girls' interest in science.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29 669–686.
Putnam, B. A., & Hansen, J. C. (1972). Relationship of self-concept and feminine role concept to vocational maturity in young women.Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19 436–440.
Richman, C. L., Clark, M. L., & Brown, K. P. (1985). General and specific self-esteem in late adolescent studies: Race × gender × SES effects.Adolescence, 20 555–566.
Robinson-Awana, P., Kehle, T., & Jenson, W. (1986). But what about smart girls? Adolescent self-esteem and sex role perceptions as a function of academic achievement.Journal of Educational Psychology, 78 179–183.
Schwartz, W., & Hanson, K. (1992). Equal Mathematics Education for Female Students. (Report No. 78). Newton, MA: Education Development Center, Inc., Center for Equity and Cultural Diversity. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 344 977.)
Scott, K. P. (1986). Effects of sex-fair reading materials on pupils' attitudes, comprehension, and interest.American Educational Research Journal, 23 105–116.
Scott, K. P., & Feldman-Summers, S. (1979). Children's reactions to textbook stories in which females are portrayed in traditionally male roles.Journal of Educational Psychology, 71 396–402.
Seegmiller, B. R. (1980). Sex-role differentiation in preschools: Effects of maternal employment.The Journal of Psychology, 104 185–189.
Shell, R., & Eisenberg, N. (1990). The role of peers' gender in children's naturally occurring interest in toys.International Journal of Behavioral Development, 13 373–386.
Simmons, C. H., & Parsons, R. J. (1983). Developing internality and perceived competence: The empowerment of adolescent girls.Adolescence, 18 917–922.
Smith, N. J., Greenlaw, M. J., & Scott, C. J. (1987). Making the literate environment equitable.The Reading Teacher, 40 400–407.
Stacey, S., & Rust, J. O. (1985). Evaluating the effectiveness of the DUSO-1 (revised) program.Elementary School Guidance and Counseling, 9 84–90.
Stapleton, C. (1984). Self-concept and role models.Quest, 38 38–39.
Stein, A. H., Pohly, S. K., & Mueller, E. (1971). The influence of masculine, feminine, and neutral tasks on children's achievement behavior, expectancies of success, and attainment values.Child Development, 42 195–207.
Sylva, K. (1992). The impact of pre-school education on later educational motivations and attributions.Educational and Child Psychology, 9(2), 9–16.
Taylor, K., Lesiak, J. L., Carroll, J., & Lesiak, W. J. (1993). Kindergartners' responses to males in nontraditional roles: A replication of Styer (1975).Psychological Reports, 72(3, pt 2), 1179–1183.
The Educational Consumers' Newsletter (1991).EPIE: The educational consumers' newsletter. Water Mill, NY: Educational Products Information Exchange Institute. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 340354.)
Thompson, S. K. (1975). Gender labels and early sex role development.Child Development, 46 339–347.
Weinraub, M., Clemens, L. P., Sockloff, A., Etheridge, T., Gracely, E., & Myers, B. (1984). The development of sex role stereotypes in the third year: Relationships to gender labeling, gender identity, sex-typed toy preference, and family characteristics.Child Development, 55 1493–1503.
Weitzman, L. J., Eifler, D., Hokada, E., & Ross, C. (1972). Sex-role socialization in picture books for preschool children.American Journal of Sociology, 77 1125–1150.
Wells, L. E., & Marwell, G. (1976).Self esteem: Its conceptualization and measurement (Vol. 20). Beverly Hills: Sage Publishers.
Whitley, B. E., Jr. (1983). Sex-role orientation and self-esteem: A critical meta-analytic review.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 44 765–778.
Wilson, C. C., Lazarre, J. A., & Tingstron, D. H. (1989). Children's resistance to deviation: Multiple behavioral models.Journal of Genetic Psychology, 150 75–83.
Women on Words and Images. (1975).Dick and Jane as victims: Sex stereotyping in children's readers (rev. ed.). Princeton, NJ: Women on Words and Images.
Wright, V. (1976–1977). Hidden messages: Expressions of prejudice.Interchange, 7 54–62.
Zalk, S. R., & Katz, P. A. (1978). Gender attitudes in children.Sex Roles, 4 349–357.
Zuckerman, D. M., & Sayre, D. H. (1982). Cultural sex-role expectations and children's sex-role concepts.Sex Roles, 8 853–862.
About this article
Cite this article
Ochman, J.M. The effects of nongender-role stereotyped, same-sex role models in storybooks on the self-esteem of children in grade three. Sex Roles 35, 711–735 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544088
- Social Psychology
- Role Model
- Middle Eastern
- Main Character
- Equal Access