Henry the Nurse is a Doctor Too: Implicitly Examining Children’s Gender Stereotypes for Male and Female Occupational Roles

Abstract

Eagly’s social role theory (Eagly and Steffen 1984) was tested examining children’s gender role stereotypes via implicit information processing and memory measures. We explored whether children’s occupational stereotypes were less restrictive for females who engaged in counterstereotypic occupations (Mary-Doctor) compared to males who engaged in counterstereotypic occupations (Henry-Nurse). Fifty-seven American eight- and nine-year-olds from a southwestern city were orally presented with stereotypic male and female names paired with masculine and feminine occupations and asked to create sentences using the name-occupation pairs. We conducted analyses of the created sentences as well as tested children’s memories for the various pairings. Consistent with social role theory, the findings revealed that children’s gender role stereotypes were more restrictive for males, than for females.

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Acknowledgement

We wish to express our sincerest appreciation of Christy Ake, Allie Gregory, Julie Ann Hwang, Kyrstle Barrera, Jui Bhagwat, Paula Daneri, and Alana Bennett for data coding. In addition, we would like to sincerely thank Cate Taylor, Jui Bhagwat, Vrinda Kalia, Stephanie Martinez, and Tianlun (Tony) Jiang for their suggestions on previous drafts of the manuscript. We are also greatly indebted to Margaret Signorella as well as an anonymous reviewer for their invaluable and extensive comments and suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. Finally, we would also like to acknowledge Michele Johnson and the third-grade students that participated in the study.

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Correspondence to Makeba Parramore Wilbourn.

Appendix

Appendix

Means (+ Standard Deviations) on Dependent Measures as a function of Participant’s Gender

  Boys (n = 25) Girls (n = 32)
Dependent Measure Mm Mf Ff Fm Mm Mf Ff Fm
Sentence Response Latencya (in seconds) 2.39 (1.70) 2.88 (2.54) 2.48 (1.55) 2.36 (1.71) 2.95 (2.19) 3.48 (2.39) 2.83 (1.46) 2.71 (1.96)
Sentence Omissions (%) 2.40 (6.63) 11.20 (16.41) 7.20 (12.75) 10.40 (17.44) 4.38 (11.05) 13.13 (13.06) 10.00 (13.44) 8.12 (15.12)
Unincorporated Sentences (%) 7.61 (12.68) 12.62 (19.85) 9.22 (14.12) 5.21 (8.72) 12.21 (18.62) 17.70 (17.13) 11.62 (17.23) 14.08 (17.57)
Recall Correct (%) 12.80 (15.14) 8.00 (12.91) 3.20 (7.48) 5.60 (10.83) 10.00 (11.36) 11.25 (16.80) 6.89 (14.01) 5.00 (10.16)
Number of Recall Errorsb Male Names Female Names Male Names Female Names
Stereotype Congruent 3.0 (1.47) 2.72 (1.43) 2.66 (1.41) 2.94 (1.59)
Stereotype Incongruent 1.92 (1.32) 2.28 (1.54) 1.28 (1.05) 1.44 (1.41)
  1. aScale range: 0 to 15 seconds
  2. bScale range: 0 to 20 recall errors (10 for each type of name)
  3. Note: Mm = Male Name-Masculine Occupation, Mf = Male Name-Feminine Occupation
  4. Ff = Female Name-Feminine Occupation, Fm = Female Name-Masculine Occupation

Examples of Occupation Incorporated and Occupation Unincorporated Created Sentences.

Occupation Incorporated

Andrew the police officer arrested a bad guy.

Steve the janitor cleans the classrooms.

Brad the librarian works in the Library.

David the housekeeper cleans the house.

Julie the schoolteacher teaches math.

Patricia the nurse helps sick people.

Susan the auto mechanic fixes cars.

Heather the firefighter puts out fires

Occupation Unincorporated

William the doctor is a doctor.

Henry the nurse is a man.

Mark the secretary is a principal.

Heather the telephone operator is a girl.

Julie the schoolteacher is funny.

Patricia the janitor is a pretty janitor.

Kathy the doctor is woman who is a doctor.

Henry the nurse is a doctor too.

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Wilbourn, M.P., Kee, D.W. Henry the Nurse is a Doctor Too: Implicitly Examining Children’s Gender Stereotypes for Male and Female Occupational Roles. Sex Roles 62, 670–683 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9773-7

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Keywords

  • Children
  • Gender role stereotypes
  • Social role theory
  • Occupational roles
  • Implicit measures
  • Knowledge base access
  • Memory