Sex Roles

, Volume 68, Issue 5–6, pp 378–389 | Cite as

Children’s Gender Stereotypes Through Drawings of Emotional Faces: Do Boys Draw Angrier Faces than Girls?

Original Article


The present study was designed to examine the impact of display rules and gender-emotion stereotypes on French children’s depiction of sadness and anger in their drawings of a human face. Participants were 172 school-aged French children (74 boys and 98 girls), who attended state schools in a middle-class district of a southern French city. The exact age range was as followed: 6 years 2 months to 8 years 1 month. They were asked to draw the emotion felt by a character (either male or female) after being told a scenario eliciting sadness and a scenario eliciting anger. By never mentioning the emotion felt by the character, we expected children’s interpretation of these scenarios to be therefore influenced by their own gender and/or by the character’s gender. Results indicate that anger is depicted by more boys than girls in response to the angry scenario, for male as well as for female characters. Furthermore, among the children who did depict anger, the expressive intensity of the drawings was scored lower for children who were presented the feminine character than for children who were presented the masculine character. However, no effect of gender was found on the drawings produced in response to the sad scenario. These results are discussed in terms of the influence of display rules and gender-emotion stereotypes on children. We also suggest some methodological and clinical implications.


Display rules Gender stereotypes Emotions Children Drawing 


  1. Baldy, R. (2002). Dessine-moi un bonhomme. Dessins d’enfants et développement cognitif [Draw me a human figure. Children’s drawings and cognitive development]. Paris: In Press Editions.Google Scholar
  2. Bekhit, N. S., Thomas, G. V., & Jolley, R. P. (2005). The use of drawing for psychological assessment in Britain: Survey findings. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 78, 205–217. doi:10.1348/147608305X26044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berti, A. E., & Freeman, N. H. (1997). Representational change in resources for pictorial innovations: A three-component analysis. Cognitive Development, 12, 501–522. doi:10.1016/S0885-2014(97)90020-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birnbaum, D. W., & Chemelski, B. E. (1984). Preschoolers’ inferences about gender and emotion: The mediation of emotionality stereotypes. Sex Roles, 10, 505–511. doi:10.1007/BF00287259.Google Scholar
  5. Birnbaum, D. W., & Croll, W. L. (1984). The etiology of children’s stereotypes about sex differences in emotionality. Sex Roles, 10, 677–691. doi:10.1007/BF00287379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Birnbaum, D. W., Nosanchuk, T. A., & Croll, W. L. (1980). Children’s stereotypes about sex differences in emotionality. Sex Roles, 6, 435–443. doi:10.1007/BF00287363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blanc, N. (2010). The comprehension of the tales between 5 and 7 year-olds: Which representation of emotional information? Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 256–265. doi:10.1037/a0021283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brechet, C., Picard, D., & Baldy, R. (2007). Expression des émotions dans le dessin d’un homme chez l’enfant de 5 à 11 ans [Expression of emotions in the drawing of a man in the 5 to 11-year-old child]. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61, 142–153. doi:10.1037/cjep2007015.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brechet, C., Baldy, R., & Picard, D. (2009). How does Sam feel?: Children’s labelling and drawing of basic emotions. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27, 587–606. doi:10.1348/026151008X345564.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brody, L. R., Lovas, G. S., & Hay, D. H. (1995). Gender differences in anger and fear as a function of situational context. Sex Roles, 32, 47–79. doi:10.1007/BF01544757.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks, M. (2005). Drawing as a unique mental development tool for young children: Interpersonal and intrapersonal dialogues. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 6, 80–91. doi:10.2304/ciec.2005.6.1.11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brosnan, M. J. (1999). A new methodology, an old story? Gender differences in the ‘draw-computer-user’ test. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 14, 375–385. doi:10.1007/BF03173121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buck, J. N. (1948). The HTP test. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 4, 151–159. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(194804)4:2<151::AID-JCLP2270040203>3.0.CO;2-O.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burkitt, E., & Barrett, M. (2010). Child and adult reports of graphic strategies used to portray figures with contrasting emotional characteristics. Journal of Creative Behavior, 44, 169–190. doi:10.1002/j.2162-6057.2010.tb01332.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Camara, W. J., Nathan, J. S., & Puente, A. E. (2000). Psychological test usage: Implications in professional psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 31, 141–154. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.31.2.141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chambers, D. W. (1983). Stereotypic images of the scientist: The draw-a-scientist test. Science Education, 67, 255–265. doi:10.1002/sce.3730670213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chan, D., & Lee, H. (1995). Patterns of psychological test usage in Hong Kong in 1993. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26, 292–297. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.26.3.292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Colley, A., Berman, E., & van Millingen, L. (2005). Age and gender differences in young people’s perceptions of sport participants. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 35, 1440–1454. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2005.tb02178.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Collignon, O., Girard, S., Gosselin, F., Saint-Amour, D., Lepore, F., & Lassonde, M. (2010). Women process multisensory emotion expressions more efficiently than men. Neuropsychologia, 48, 220–225. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.09.007.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cox, M. V. (1993). Children’s drawings of the human figure. Hove: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  21. Cox, M. V. (2005). The pictorial world of the child. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Dafflon Novelle, A. (2006). Filles-garçons: Socialisation différenciée? [Girls and boys: Differentiated socialization?]. Grenoble: Presses Universitaires de Grenoble.Google Scholar
  23. Fischer, A. H. (2000). Gender and emotion: Social psychological perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fournier, J. E., & Wineburg, S. S. (1997). Picturing the past: Gender differences in the depiction of historical figures. American Journal of Education, 105, 160–186. doi:10.1086/444151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Freeman, N. H. (1980). Strategies of representation in young children: Analysis of spatial skills and drawing processes. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  26. Freeman, N. H., & Cox, M. V. (1985). Visual order: The nature and development of pictorial representation. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Fuchs, D., & Thelen, M. H. (1988). Children’s expected interpersonal consequences of communicating their affective state and reported likelihood of expression. Child Development, 58, 1314–1322. doi:10.2307/1130494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Golomb, C. (1992). The child’s creation of a pictorial world. Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  29. Golombok, S., & Rust, J. (1993). The preschool activities inventory: A standardized assessment of gender role in children. Psychological Assessment, 5, 131–136. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.5.2.131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gombrich, E. H. (1972). The visual image. Scientific American, 227(3), 82–96. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0972-82.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goodnow, J. (1977). Children drawing. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Granié, M.-A. (2010). Gender stereotype conformity and age as determinants of preschoolers’ injury-risk behaviors. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 42, 726–733. doi:10.1016/j.aap. 2009.10.022.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hall, J. A. (1978). Gender effects in decoding nonverbal cues. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 845–857. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.85.4.845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Haugh, S. S., Hoffman, C. D., & Cowan, G. (1980). The eye of the very young beholder: Sex typing of infants by young children. Child Development, 51, 598–600. doi:10.2307/1129302.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hofstede, G. H. (2003). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  36. Hollis, S., & Low, J. (2005). Karmiloff-Smith’s RRM distinction between adjunctions and redescriptions: It’s about time (and children’s drawings). British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23, 623–644. doi:10.1348/026151005X35390.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hubbard, J. A. (2001). Emotion expression processes in children’s peer interaction: The role of peer rejection, aggression, and gender. Child Development, 72, 1426–1438. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00357.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ives, S. W. (1984). The development of expressivity in drawing. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 54, 152–159. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8279.1984.tb02575.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Jolley, R. P. (2009). Children and pictures: Drawing and understanding. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  40. Karbon, M., Fabes, R. A., Carlo, G., & Martin, C. L. (1992). Preschoolers’ beliefs about sex and age differences in emotionality. Sex Roles, 27, 377–390. doi:10.1007/BF00289946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Koppitz, E. M. (1968). Psychological evaluation of children’s human figure drawings. New York: Grure & Stratton.Google Scholar
  42. Kunda, Z., & Thagard, P. (1996). Forming impressions from stereotypes, traits, and behaviors: A parallel-constraint-satisfaction theory. Psychological Review, 103, 284–308. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.103.2.284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Machover, K. (1949). Personality projection in the drawings of the human figure. Springfield: Thomas.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Malchiodi, C. A. (1998). Understanding children’s drawings. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  45. McClure, E. B. (2000). A meta-analytic review of sex differences in facial expression processing and their development in infants, children and adolescents. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 424–453. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.126.3.424.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McNaughton, G. (2000). Rethinking gender in early childhood. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  47. Meerum Terwogt, M., & Olthof, T. (1989). Awareness and self-regulation of emotion in young children. In C. Saarni & P. L. Harris (Eds.), Children’s understanding of emotion (pp. 209–240). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Missaghi-Lakshman, M., & Whissell, C. (1991). Children’s understanding of facial expression of emotion: II. Drawing of emotion-faces. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 72, 1228–1230. doi:10.2466/pms.1991.72.3c.1228.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Oliver, M. B., & Green, S. (2001). Development of gender differences in children’s responses to animated entertainment. Sex Roles, 45, 67–88. doi:10.1023/A:1013012401836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Parmley, M., & Cunningham, J. (2007). Children’s gender-emotion stereotypes in the relationship of anger to sadness and fear. Sex Roles, 58, 358–370. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9335-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Picard, D., & Baldy, R. (2011). Le dessin de l’enfant et son usage dans la pratique psychologique [The use of children’s drawings in psychological assessment]. Développements, 10, 45–60.Google Scholar
  52. Picard, D., & Boulhais, M. (2011). Sex differences in expressive drawing. Personality and Individual Differences, 51, 850–855. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.07.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Saarni, C. (1979). Children’s understanding of display rules for expressive behavior. Developmental Psychology, 15, 424–429. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.15.4.424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sayil, M. (2001). Children’s drawings of emotional faces. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 19, 493–505. doi:10.1348/026151001166218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sharpley, C. F., & Pain, M. D. (1988). Psychological test usage in Australia. Australian Psychologist, 23, 361–369. doi:10.1080/00050068808255618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Soussignan, R., & Schaal, B. (1996). Children’s facial responsiveness to odors: Influences of hedonic valence of odor, gender, age and social presence. Developmental Psychology, 32, 367–379. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.32.2.367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Syssau, A., & Monnier, C. (2009). Children’s emotional norms for 600 French words. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 213–219. doi:10.3758/BRM.41.1.213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Watkins, C., Campbell, V., Nieberding, R., & Hallmark, R. (1995). Contemporary practice of psychological assessment by clinical psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 26, 54–60. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.26.1.54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wester, S. R., Vogel, D. L., Pressly, P. K., & Heesacker, M. (2002). Sex differences in emotion: A critical review of the literature and implications for counseling psychology. The Counseling Psychologist, 30, 630–652. doi:10.1177/00100002030004008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wieder, A., & Noller, P. A. (1950). Objective studies of children’s drawings of human figures. Part 1: Sex awareness and socioeconomic level. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 6, 319–325. doi:10.1002/1097-4679(195010)6:4<319::AID-JCLP2270060403>3.0.CO;2–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Laboratory Epsylon, E.A. 4556-Dynamics of Human Abilities & Health BehaviorsUniversity of Montpellier IIIMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Montpellier IIIMontpellierFrance

Personalised recommendations