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Gender Stereotyping and Under-representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children’s Picture Books: A Twenty-first Century Update

Abstract

Gender stereotyping and under-representation of girls and women have been documented in children’s picture books in the past, in the hope that improvements would follow. Most researchers have analyzed award-winning books. We explored sexism in top selling books from 2001 and a 7-year sample of Caldecott award-winning books, for a total of 200 books. There were nearly twice as many male as female title and main characters. Male characters appeared 53% more times in illustrations. Female main characters nurtured more than male main characters did, and they were seen in more indoor than outdoor scenes. Occupations were gender stereotyped, and more women than men appeared to have no paid occupation. Few differences were found between Caldecott award books and other books. A comparison of our book sample to 1980s and 1990s books did not reveal reduced sexism. The persistence of sexism in picture books and implications for children and parents are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The designation “characters overall” refers to all characters, both primary and secondary.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank undergraduate assistants Nate Olson and Ashley Vinsel for their invaluable assistance.

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Correspondence to Mykol C. Hamilton.

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Hamilton, M.C., Anderson, D., Broaddus, M. et al. Gender Stereotyping and Under-representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children’s Picture Books: A Twenty-first Century Update. Sex Roles 55, 757–765 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9128-6

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Keywords

  • Children’s literature
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Female under-representation