Gender nonconforming children are at heightened risk for negative parenting interactions. This study investigated possible explanations for differences in parenting behaviors with gender conforming and nonconforming boys. A sample of 201 adults (43% women/57% men; 81% White, 10% Black/African American, 6% Multiracial, 3% Asian, and 1% American Indian or Alaska Native; and 7% Hispanic/Latinx) ranging in age from 20 to 74 years (M = 35.44, SD = 9.76) were presented two vignettes describing a gender conforming and nonconforming boy. Following each vignette, participants provided endorsements of parenting behaviors and reported their concern for that child’s future. In addition, participants completed measures assessing their attitudes toward homosexuality and need for closure. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant differences in endorsements of physical discipline or positive parenting for the two boys. Participants did, however, report higher concern for the gender nonconforming boy’s future. Individual differences in homonegativity were associated with greater endorsements of physical discipline toward the gender nonconforming boy, after accounting for endorsements of physical discipline toward the gender conforming boy. Further, higher concern for the gender nonconforming boy’s future was associated with greater endorsements of physical discipline and lower endorsements of positive parenting, after accounting for endorsements of each behavior for the gender conforming boy as well as concern for their future. Intervention efforts to support the parent–child relationship for gender nonconforming boys may benefit from identifying and responding to both negative attitudes toward homosexuality and addressing motivations to change behavior resulting from concern for their child’s future.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Availability of Data and Materials
Data available through the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/8ak3n/).
Code syntax available through the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/8ak3n/).
Alanko, K., Santtila, P., Harlaar, N., Witting, K., Varjonen, M., Jern, P., Johansson, A., Von Der Pahlen, B., & Sandnabba, N. K. (2008). The association between childhood gender atypical behavior and adult psychiatric symptoms is moderated by parenting style. Sex Roles, 58(11–12), 837–847. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9395-5
American Psychological Association. (2015). Guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming people. American Psychologist, 70(9), 832–864. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039906
American Psychological Association Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance. (2009). Report of the Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance. American Psychological Association
Anton, B. S. (2010). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association for the legislative year 2009: Minutes of the annual meeting of the Council of Representatives and minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors. American Psychologist, 65(5), 385–475. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019553
Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 43–55. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-16184.108.40.206
Balsam, K. F., Rothblum, E. D., & Beauchaine, T. P. (2005). Victimization over the life span: A comparison of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual siblings. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(3), 477–487. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.73.3.477
Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B, 57(1), 289–300. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2517-6161.1995.tb02031.x
Bernat, J. A., Calhoun, K. S., Adams, H. E., & Zeichner, A. (2001). Homophobia and physical aggression toward homosexual and heterosexual individuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110(1), 179–187. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.110.1.179
Blackstone, A. M. (2003). Gender roles and society. In J. R. Miller, R. M. Lerner, & L. B. Schiamberg (Eds.), Human ecology: An encyclopedia of children, families, communities, and environments (pp. 335–338). ABC-CLIO.
Blair, I. V., & Banaji, M. R. (1996). Automatic and controlled processes in stereotype priming. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(6), 1142–1163. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
Blakemore, J. E. O., & Hill, C. A. (2008). The Child Gender Socialization Scale: A measure to compare traditional and feminist parents. Sex Roles, 58(3), 192–207. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9333-y
Blashill, A. J., & Powlishta, K. K. (2009). Gay stereotypes: The use of sexual orientation as a cue for gender-related attributes. Sex Roles, 61(11–12), 783–793. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9684-7
Broussard, K. A., & Warner, R. H. (2019). Gender nonconformity is perceived differently for cisgender and transgender targets. Sex Roles, 80(7), 409–428. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0947-z
Burke, S. E., Dovidio, J. F., LaFrance, M., Przedworski, J. M., Perry, S. P., Phelan, S. M., Burgess, D. J., Hardeman, R. R., Yeazel, M. W., & van Ryn, M. (2017). Beyond generalized sexual prejudice: Need for closure predicts negative attitudes toward bisexual people relative to gay/lesbian people. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 71, 145–150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2017.02.003
Cicchetti, D., & Toth, S. L. (2005). Child maltreatment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 1(1), 409–438. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144029
Costa, P. A., & Davies, M. (2012). Portuguese adolescents’ attitudes toward sexual minorities: Transphobia, homophobia, and gender role beliefs. Journal of Homosexuality, 59(10), 1424–1442. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2012.724944
Coyle, E. F., Fulcher, M., & Trübutschek, D. (2016). Sissies, mama’s boys, and tomboys: Is children’s gender nonconformity more acceptable when nonconforming traits are positive? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(7), 1827–1838. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0695-5
D’Augelli, A. R., Grossman, A. H., Salter, N. P., Vasey, J. J., Starks, M. T., & Sinclair, K. O. (2005). Predicting the suicide attempts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35(6), 646–660. https://doi.org/10.1521/suli.2005.35.6.646
D’Augelli, A. R., Grossman, A. H., & Starks, M. T. (2006). Childhood gender atypicality, victimization, and PTSD among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(11), 1462–1482. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506293482
De Zavala, A. G., Cislak, A., & Wesolowska, E. (2010). Political conservatism, need for cognitive closure, and intergroup hostility. Political Psychology, 31(4), 521–541. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9221.2010.00767.x
Dunbar, J., Brown, M., & Amoroso, D. M. (1973). Some correlates of attitudes toward homosexuality. Journal of Social Psychology, 89(2), 271–279. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1973.9922600
Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A. G. (2014). G∗ Power Version (Version 3.1. 9.2) [Computer Software]. Uiversität Kiel, Germany, 378.
Fiske, S. T. (2000). Stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination at the seam between the centuries: Evolution, culture, mind, and brain. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(3), 299–322. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(200005/06)30:3%3c299::AID-EJSP2%3e3.0.CO;2-F
Fiske, S. T., & Neuberg, S. L. (1990). A continuum of impression formation, from category-based to individuating processes: Influences of information and motivation on attention and interpretation. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 23(C), 1–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60317-2
Fréchette, S., Zoratti, M., & Romano, E. (2015). What is the link between corporal punishment and child physical abuse? Journal of Family Violence, 30(2), 135–148. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-014-9663-9
Freeman, N. K. (2007). Preschoolers’ perceptions of gender appropriate toys and their parents’ beliefs about genderized behaviors: Miscommunication, mixed messages, or hidden truths? Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(5), 357–366. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-006-0123-x
Gordon, A. R., Conron, K. J., Calzo, J. P., White, M. T., Reisner, S. L., & Austin, S. B. (2018). Gender expression, violence, and bullying victimization: Findings from probability samples of high school students in 4 US school districts. Journal of School Health, 88(4), 306–314. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12606
Gordon, A. R., & Meyer, I. H. (2008). Gender nonconformity as a target of prejudice, discrimination, and violence against LGB individuals. Journal of LGBT Health Research, 3(3), 55–71. https://doi.org/10.1080/15574090802093562
Gower, A. L., Rider, G. N., Coleman, E., Brown, C., McMorris, B. J., & Eisenberg, M. E. (2018). Perceived gender presentation among transgender and gender diverse youth: Approaches to analysis and associations with bullying victimization and emotional distress. LGBT Health, 5(5), 312–319. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2017.0176
Grossman, A. H., D’augelli, A. R., & Frank, J. A. (2011). Aspects of psychological resilience among transgender youth. Journal of LGBT Youth, 8(2), 103–115. https://doi.org/10.1080/19361653.2011.541347
Haine, R. A., Wolchik, S. A., Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., & Ayers, T. S. (2006). Positive parenting as a protective resource for parentally bereaved children. Death Studies, 30(1), 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481180500348639
Hidalgo, M. A., Kuhns, L. M., Kwon, S., Mustanski, B., & Garofalo, R. (2015). The impact of childhood gender expression on childhood sexual abuse and psychopathology among young men who have sex with men. Child Abuse and Neglect, 46, 103–112. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2015.05.005
Johnson, M. E., Brems, C., & Alford-Keating, P. (1997). Personality correlates of homophobia. Journal of Homosexuality, 34(1), 57–69. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v34n01_05
Jones, A., Robinson, E., Oginni, O., Rahman, Q., & Rimes, K. A. (2017). Anxiety disorders, gender nonconformity, bullying and self-esteem in sexual minority adolescents: Prospective birth cohort study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(11), 1201–1209. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12757
Kane, E. W. (2006). “No way my boys are going to be like that!”: Parents’ responses to children’s gender nonconformity. Gender and Society, 20(2), 149–176. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205284276
Kelly, J. R., & Spoor, J. R. (2007). Need for closure. Sage. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412956253.n365
Kennedy, R., Clifford, S., Burleigh, T., Waggoner, P. D., Jewell, R., & Winter, N. J. G. (2020). The shape of and solutions to the MTurk quality crisis. Political Science Research and Methods, 8(4), 614–629. https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2020.6
Klein, A., & Golub, S. A. (2016). Family rejection as a predictor of suicide attempts and substance misuse among transgender and gender nonconforming adults. LGBT Health, 3(3), 193–199. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2015.0111
Li, G., Kung, K. T. F., & Hines, M. (2017). Childhood gender-typed behavior and adolescent sexual orientation: A longitudinal population-based study. Developmental Psychology, 53(4), 764–777. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000281
Makwana, A. P., Dhont, K., De Keersmaecker, J., Akhlaghi-Ghaffarokh, P., Masure, M., & Roets, A. (2018). The motivated cognitive basis of transphobia: The roles of right-wing ideologies and gender role beliefs. Sex Roles, 79(3–4), 206–217. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0860-x
Martin, C. L. (1990). Attitudes and expectations about children with nontraditional and traditional gender roles. Sex Roles, 22(3), 151–166. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288188
Martin, C. L. (1995). Stereotypes about children with traditional and nontraditional gender roles. Sex Roles, 33(11), 727–751. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544776
Martin, K. A. (2009). Normalizing heterosexuality: Mothers’ assumptions, talk, and strategies with young children. American Sociological Review, 74(2), 190–207. https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240907400202
Martin-Storey, A., & August, E. G. (2016). Harassment due to gender nonconformity mediates the association between sexual minority identity and depressive symptoms. Journal of Sex Research, 53(1), 85–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2014.980497
Miller, L. R., & Grollman, E. A. (2015). The social costs of gender nonconformity for transgender adults: Implications for discrimination and health. Sociological Forum, 30(3), 809–831. https://doi.org/10.1111/socf.12193
Morrison, M. A., & Morrison, T. G. (2002). Development and validation of a scale measuring modern prejudice toward gay men and lesbian women. Journal of Homosexuality, 43(2), 15–37. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v43n02_02
Munroe, C., Clerkin, E. M., & Kuvalanka, K. A. (2020). The impact of peer and family functioning on transgender and gender-diverse children’s mental health. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29(7), 2080–2089. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01729-x
Neuberg, S. L., Judice, T. N., & West, S. G. (1997). What the need for closure scale measures and what it does not: Toward differentiating among related epistemic motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(6), 1396–1412. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1686
Parrott, D. J., Adams, H. E., & Zeichner, A. (2002). Homophobia: Personality and attitudinal correlates. Personality and Individual Differences, 32(7), 1269–1278. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(01)00117-9
Plöderl, M., & Fartacek, R. (2009). Childhood gender nonconformity and harassment as predictors of suicidality among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual Austrians. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(3), 400–410. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9244-6
Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: Evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology, 44(1), 46–58. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1622.214.171.124
Rieger, G., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2012). Gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, and psychological well-being. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(3), 611–621. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9738-0
Roberts, A. L., Rosario, M., Corliss, H. L., Koenen, K. C., & Austin, S. B. (2012). Childhood gender nonconformity: A risk indicator for childhood abuse and posttraumatic stress in youth. Pediatrics, 129(3), 410–417. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-1804
Sanders, M. R., Kirby, J. N., Tellegen, C. L., & Day, J. J. (2014). The Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: A systematic review and meta-analysis of a multi-level system of parenting support. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(4), 337–357. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2014.04.003
Sandnabba, N. K., & Ahlberg, C. (1999). Parents’ attitudes and expectations about children’s cross-gender behavior. Sex Roles, 40(3), 249–263. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018851005631
Shah, J. Y., Kruglanski, A. W., & Thompson, E. P. (1998). Membership has its (epistemic) rewards: Need for closure effects on in-group bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(2), 383–393. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1993
Shelton, K. K., Frick, P. J., & Wootton, J. (1996). Assessment of parenting practices in families of elementary school-age children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 25(3), 317–329. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp2503_8
Skidmore, W. C., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., & Bailey, J. M. (2006). Gender nonconformity and psychological distress in lesbians and gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35(6), 685–697. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-006-9108-5
Smokowski, P. R., Bacallao, M. L., Cotter, K. L., & Evans, C. B. R. (2015). The effects of positive and negative parenting practices on adolescent mental health outcomes in a multicultural sample of rural youth. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 46(3), 333–345. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-014-0474-2
Social Security Administration. (2018). Popular baby names. https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/popularnames.cgi
Spivey, L. A., Huebner, D. M., & Diamond, L. M. (2018). Parent responses to childhood gender nonconformity: Effects of parent and child characteristics. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 5(3), 360–370. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000279
Tebbe, E. N., & Moradi, B. (2012). Anti-transgender prejudice: A structural equation model of associated constructs. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(2), 251–261. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026990
Thoma, B. C., Eckstrand, K. L., Montano, G. T., Rezeppa, T. L., & Marshal, M. P. (2021). Gender nonconformity and minority stress among lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals: A meta-analytic review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 16, 1165–1183. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691620968766
Thomas, R. N., & Blakemore, J. E. O. (2013). Adults’ attitudes about gender nonconformity in childhood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(3), 399–412. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-0023-7
Toews, J. B. (2020). The effect of imagined intergroup contact and need for closure on attitudes toward bisexuality. Journal of Bisexuality, 20(1), 19–39. https://doi.org/10.1080/15299716.2020.1732257
Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2013). Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(S), 71–80. https://doi.org/10.1037/2329-0382.1.s.71
Webster, D. M., & Kruglanski, A. W. (1994). Individual differences in need for cognitive closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(6), 1049–1062. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.529
Zucker, K. J., Wilson-Smith, D. N., Kurita, J. A., & Stern, A. (1995). Children’s appraisals of sex-typed behavior in their peers. Sex Roles, 33, 703–725. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544775
Brian Feinstein was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K08DA045575; PI: Feinstein). Kathryn Humphreys was supported by the Jacobs Foundation Early Career Research Fellowship (2017-1261-05) and National Science Foundation (2042285).The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no potential conflicts of interest with regard to this article.
Ethical Approval and Informed Consent
Ethical review and approval was obtained from the Vanderbilt University Institutional Review Board (No: 191157). Informed consent was obtained from all participants.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Jacques, K.P., Feinstein, B.A., Darling, A.K. et al. An Analogue Study Investigating Differential Parenting of Gender Conforming and Nonconforming Boys. Arch Sex Behav 51, 3569–3581 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-022-02388-3