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Traditionally and Narrowly Defined: Gender Portrayals in Television Programming Targeting Babies and Toddlers


With emerging technology and popularity of video-on-demand (VOD) services (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) that is higher than ever, the current media industry invites babies (< 2 years old) and toddlers (2–4 years old) into the growing consumer market. Although previous research has established that screen media targeted to children and adolescents largely portrays men and women in traditional gender roles, it is less clear how gender is portrayed in programs targeted toward the youngest viewers. The current study examined gender traits of the main characters in programs targeted to babies and children ages 2–4 that were disseminated via Hulu Kids. Comparisons between male and female characters in Babies programs and Kids 2–4 programs, respectively, showed that the characters were gender-stereotypically portrayed. However, both male characters and female characters were shown to be portrayed with masculine traits in programs targeting toddlers when compared within each gender. These results suggest even the youngest of viewers are exposed to narrow and traditional gender portrayals.

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The dataset used in this study can be made available individually at the discretion of the authors after a direct request from interested parties.

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Correspondence to Soojung Kang.

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Kang, S., Hust, S.J. Traditionally and Narrowly Defined: Gender Portrayals in Television Programming Targeting Babies and Toddlers. Sex Roles 86, 576–586 (2022).

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  • Mass media
  • Stereotypes
  • Masculinity
  • Femininity
  • Children