Sex Roles

, Volume 42, Issue 11–12, pp 1007–1025 | Cite as

Gender-Role Cognition in Three-Year-Old Boys and Girls

  • Marion O'Brien
  • Vicki Peyton
  • Rashmita Mistry
  • Ludmila Hruda
  • Anne Jacobs
  • Yvonne Caldera
  • Aletha Huston
  • Carolyn Roy


Although the multidimensionality of gender roles has been well established, few researchers have investigated male and female roles separately. Because of the substantial differences in the ways male and female roles are portrayed in our culture, boys and girls may think and learn about these roles differently. The male role is more clearly defined, more highly valued, and more salient than the female role; thus, children's cognitions about these two roles may be expected to differ. The present study addressed the question of whether there is sex-typical variation in gender labeling, gender-role knowledge, and schematicity. Participants were 120 families; 15% were from minority ethnic groups, and 17% were single-parent families; 25% of the parents had a high school education or less. Results indicated that at 36 months of age, boys were less able to label gender and less knowledgeable about gender roles than were girls. Boys' knew more about male stereotypes than female stereotypes, whereas girls knew considerably more than boys about the female role and as much as boys about the male role. Boys and girls were found to be similar in gender schematicity. Traditionality of parental attitudes regarding child-rearing and maternal employment were not strongly related to children's gender cognition.


High School Ethnic Group Social Psychology Gender Role School Education 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marion O'Brien
    • 1
  • Vicki Peyton
    • 2
  • Rashmita Mistry
    • 3
  • Ludmila Hruda
    • 4
  • Anne Jacobs
    • 2
  • Yvonne Caldera
    • 5
  • Aletha Huston
    • 6
  • Carolyn Roy
    • 2
  1. 1.University of KansasUSA
  2. 2.University of KansasUSA
  3. 3.University of North Carolina Center for Developmental ScienceUSA
  4. 4.University of MichiganAnn Arbor
  5. 5.Texas Tech UniversityLubbock
  6. 6.University of Texas at AustinAustin

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