Sex Roles

, Volume 32, Issue 9–10, pp 651–673 | Cite as

Gender roles in animated cartoons: Has the picture changed in 20 years?

  • Teresa L. Thompson
  • Eugenia Zerbinos


This study is an update of research done primarily in the 1970s on gender representation in children's cartoons. In the present study, 175 episodes of 41 different cartoons were coded for numbers and demographic characteristics of male, female, and androgynous characters. Behaviors, communication characteristics, and total talk time of male and female characters were coded, along with copyright year and country of origin. Results indicated notable discrepancies between prominence and portrayal of male and female characters. Both male and female characters were portrayed stereotypically. Compared to female characters, male characters were given much more prominence, appeared more frequently, engaged in more of almost all of the noted behaviors, and talked significantly more. When male or female behavior and communication variables were divided by number of male or female characters or by total talk time, results indicated consistency with gender role stereotypes. Comparisons of pre- and post-1980 cartoons, however, indicated significant change toward a less stereotypical portrayal of the characters, particularly female characters.


Demographic Characteristic Social Psychology Gender Role Communication Variable Communication Characteristic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Atkin, D. (1991). The evolution of television series addressing single women, 1966–1990.Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 35, 517–523.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, R. K., & Ball, S. J. (1969).Mass media and violence: A staff report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, 9, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1977).Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Barcus, F. E. (1983).Images of life on children's television: Sex roles, minorities, and families. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  5. Bretl, D. J., & Cantor, J. (1988). The portrayal of men and women in U.S. television commercials: a recent content analysis and trends over 15 years.Sex Roles, 18, 595–609.Google Scholar
  6. Carter, B. (1991, May 1). “Children's TV, where boys are king.”The New York Times, Section A, p. 1.Google Scholar
  7. Courtney, A. E., & Whipple, T. W. (1983).Sex stereotyping in advertising. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  8. Dominick, J. R. (1979). The portrayal of women in prime time, 1953–1977.Sex Roles, 5, 405–411.Google Scholar
  9. Downs, A. C. (1981). Sex-role stereotyping on prime-time television.The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 138, 253–258.Google Scholar
  10. Durkin, K. (1985). Television and sex-role acquisition: I. Content.British Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 101–113.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Davidson, E. S., Yasuna, A., & Tower, A. (1979). The effects of television cartoons on sex-role stereotyping in young girls.Child Development, 50, 597–600.Google Scholar
  12. Forge, K. L. S., & Phemister, S. (1987). The effect of prosocial cartoons on preschool children.Child Study Journal, 17, 83–88.Google Scholar
  13. Frueh, T., & McGhee, P. E. (1975). Traditional sex role development and amount of time spent watching television.Developmental Psychology, 11, 109.Google Scholar
  14. Hansen, C. H., & Hansen, R. D. (1988). How rock music can change what is seen when boy meets girl: priming stereotypic appraisal of social interactions.Sex Roles, 19 287–316.Google Scholar
  15. Hapkiewicz, W. G. (1979). Children's reactions to cartoon violence.Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 8, 30–34.Google Scholar
  16. Japp, P. M. (1991). Gender and work in the 1980s: television's working women as displaced persons.Women's Studies in Communication, 14, 49–74.Google Scholar
  17. Kahn, E. M. (1991, March 3). Cartoons for a small planet.The New York Times, Section 2, p. 29.Google Scholar
  18. Levinson, R. M. (1975). From Olive Oyl to Sweet Polly Purebred: Sex role stereotypes and televised cartoons.Journal of Popular Culture, 9, 561–572.Google Scholar
  19. Mayes, S. L., & Valentine, K. B. (1979). Sex role stereotyping in Saturday morning cartoon shows.Journal of Broadcasting, 23, 41–50.Google Scholar
  20. McArthur, L. Z., & Resko, B. G. (1975). The portrayal of men and women in American television commercials.The Journal of Social Psychology, 97, 208–220.Google Scholar
  21. Pearson, J. C., Turner, L. H., Todd-Mancillas, T. (1991).Gender and communication. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown.Google Scholar
  22. Peyton, R. B., & Wong, C.. J. (1992, January 21). Quoted in Freedman, B., No, Virginia, Bambi isn't a human.Detroit Free Press, Section B, p. 1.Google Scholar
  23. Remafedi, G. (1990). Study group report on the impact of television portrayals of gender roles on youth.Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 11, 59–61.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Rosenkrantz, P., Vogel, S., Bee, H., & Braverman, I. (1968). Sex-role stereotypes and self-concepts in college students.Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, 287–295.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Signorielli, N. (1989). Television and conceptions about sex roles: maintaining conventionality and the status quo.Sex Roles, 21, 341–360.Google Scholar
  26. Signorielli, N. (1990). Children, television and gender roles: messages and impact.Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 11, 50–58.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Sternglanz, S. H., & Serbin, L. A. (1974). Sex role stereotyping in children's television programs.Developmental Psychology, 10, 710–715.Google Scholar
  28. Streicher, H. W. (1974). The girls in the cartoons.Journal of Communication, 24(2), 125–129.Google Scholar
  29. Tannen, D. (199).You just don't understand: Women and men in conversation. New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  30. Vande Berg, L. H., & Streckfuss, D. (1992). Prime-time television's portrayal of women and the world of work: a demographic profile.Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 195–208.Google Scholar
  31. Williams, T. M. (1981). How and what do children learn from television?Human Communication Research, 17, 180–192.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa L. Thompson
    • 1
  • Eugenia Zerbinos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of DaytonDaytonUSA

Personalised recommendations