Sex Roles

, Volume 37, Issue 5–6, pp 415–432 | Cite as

Television Cartoons: Do Children Notice It's a Boy's World?

  • Teresa L. Thompson
  • Eugenia Zerbinos


This study involved structured interviews with 89 children ranging in age from 4 to 9 years to determine how they perceived the presentation of male and female characters in cartoons. Approximately 85% of the respondents were Caucasian, and 15% were African American. Consistent with a recent content analysis of cartoons, the children perceived most cartoon characters in stereotypical ways—boys were violent and active and girls were domestic, interested in boys, and concerned with appearances. Significant relationships were observed between noticing gender-stereotypic behaviors in the cartoon characters and reporting more traditional job expectations for self and others. The type of cartoon preferred by the children and whether their mother worked outside the home seemed to be related to their perceptions.


Significant Relationship Social Psychology Content Analysis Structure Interview Female Character 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Atkin, D. (1991). The evolution of television series addressing single women, 1966–1990. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 35, 517–523.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1992). Social cognitive theory of social referencing. In S. Feinman (Ed.), Social referencing and the social construction of reality in infancy. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1994). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Baker, R. K., & Ball, S. J. (1969). Mass media and violence: A staff report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, 9. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  7. Barcus, F. E. (1983). Images of life on children's television: Sex roles, minorities, and families. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  8. Bretl, D. J., & Cantor, J. (1988). The portrayal of men and women in U.S. television commercials: A recent content analysis and trends over 15 years. Sex Roles, 18, 595–609.Google Scholar
  9. Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1992). Self-regulatory mechanisms governing gender development. Child Development, 63, 1236–1250.Google Scholar
  10. Carter, B. (1991, May 1). “Children's TV, where boys are king.” The New York Times, Section A, p. 1.Google Scholar
  11. Courtney, A. E., & Whipple, T. W. (1983). Sex stereotyping in advertising. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  12. Davidson, E. S., Yasuna, A., & Tower, A. (1979). The effects of television cartoons on sex role stereotyping in young girls. Child Development, 50, 597–600.Google Scholar
  13. De Lisi, R., & Johns, M. L. (1984). The effects of books and gender constancy development on kindergarten children's sex role attitudes. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 5, 173–184.Google Scholar
  14. Dominick, J. R. (1979). The portrayal of women in prime time, 1953–1977. Sex Roles, 5, 405–411.Google Scholar
  15. Downs, A. C. (1981). Sex role stereotyping on prime-time television. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 138, 253–258.Google Scholar
  16. Durkin, K. (1985a). Television and sex-role acquisition: 1. Content. British Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 101–113.Google Scholar
  17. Durkin, K. (1985b). Television and sex-role acquisition: 3: Counter-stereotyping. British Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 211–222.Google Scholar
  18. Durkin, K. (1985c). Television, sex roles, and children. Milton Keynes, England: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hansen, C. H., & Hansen, R. D. (1988). How rock muscic can change what is seen when boy meets girl: Priming stereotypic appraisal of social interactions. Sex Roles, 19, 287–316.Google Scholar
  20. Hapkiewicz, W. G. (1979). Children's reactions to cartoon violence. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 8, 30–34.Google Scholar
  21. Hawkins, R. P., & Pingree, S. (1982). Television's influence on social reality. In D. Pearl, L. Bouthilet, & J. Lazar (Eds.), Television and behavior: Ten years of scientific progress and implications for the eighties (Vol. II). Rockville, MD: National Institute of Mental Health.Google Scholar
  22. Japp, P. M. (1991). Gender and work in the 1980s: Television's working women as displaced persons. Women's Studies in Communication, 14, 49–74.Google Scholar
  23. Katz, P. Q., & Boswell, S. (1986). Flexibility and traditionality in children's gender roles. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 112, 103–147.Google Scholar
  24. Levinson, R. M. (1975). From Olive Oyl to Sweet Polly Purebred: Sex role stereotypes and televised cartoons. Journal of Popular Culture, 9, 561–572.Google Scholar
  25. Luecke-Aleska, D., Anderson, D. R., Collins, P. A., & Schmitt, K. L. (1995). Gender constancy and television viewing. Developmental Psychology, 31, 773–780.Google Scholar
  26. Lyle, J., & Hoffman, H. R. (1971a). Children's use of television and other media. In E. A. Rubinstein, G. A. Comstock, & J. P. Murray (Eds.), Television in day-to-day life: Patterns of use (Reports and Papers, Vol. 4. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  27. Lyle, J., & Hoffman, H. R. (1971b). Explorations in patterns of television viewing by preschool-age children. In E. A. Rubinstein, G. A. Comstock, & J. P. Murray (Eds.), Television in day-to-day life: Patterns of use (Reports and Papers, Vol. 4). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  28. Mayes, S. L., & Valentine, K. B. (1979). Sex role stereotyping in Saturday morning cartoon shows. Journal of Broadcasting, 23, 41–50.Google Scholar
  29. McGhee, P.E., & Frueh, T. (1980). Television viewing and the learning of sex-role stereotypes. Sex Roles, 6, 179–188.Google Scholar
  30. Nobel, G. (1975). Children in front of the small screen. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Perry, D. G., White, A. J., & Perry, L. C. (1984). Does early sex typing result from children's attempts to match their behavior to sex role stereotypes? Child Development, 55, 2114–2121.Google Scholar
  32. Peyton, R. B., & Wong, C. J. (1992, Jan. 21). Quoted in Freedman, B., No, Virginia, Bambi isn't a human. Detroit Free Press, Section B, p. 1.Google Scholar
  33. Repetti, R. L. (1984). Determinants of children's sex stereotyping: Parental sex-role traits and television viewing. Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 457–468.Google Scholar
  34. Rosenkrantz, P., Vogel, S., Bee, H., & Braverman, I. (1968). Sex role stereotypes and self-concepts in college students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, 287–295.Google Scholar
  35. Seidman, S. A. (1992). An investigation of sex-role stereotyping in music videos. Journal of Broadcasting, 36, 209–216.Google Scholar
  36. Signorielli, N. (1989). Television and conceptions about sex role: Maintaining conventionality and the status quo. Sex Roles, 21, 341–360.Google Scholar
  37. Signorielli, N. (1990). Children, television and gender roles: Messages and impact. Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 11, 50–58.Google Scholar
  38. Signorielli, N., McLeod, D., & Healy, E. (1994). Gender stereotypes in MTV commercials: The beat goes on. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 38, 91–101.Google Scholar
  39. Smith, L. J. (1994). A content analysis of gender differences in children's advertising. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 38, 323–337.Google Scholar
  40. Sternglanz, S. H., & Serbin, L. A. (1974). Sex role stereotyping in children's television programs. Developmental Psychology, 10, 710–715.Google Scholar
  41. Streicher, H. W. (1974, Spring). The girls in the cartoons. Journal of Communication, 24, 125–129.Google Scholar
  42. Tan, A. S. (1979). TV beauty ads and role expectations of adolescent female viewers. Journalism Quarterly, 56, 283–288.Google Scholar
  43. Thompson, T. L., & Zerbinos, E. (1995). Gender roles in animated cartoons: Has the pictured changed in 20 years?. Sex Roles, 32, 651–674.Google Scholar
  44. Van de Berg, L. H., & Streckfuss, D. (1992). Prime-time television's portrayal of women and the world of work: A demographic profile. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 36, 195–208.Google Scholar
  45. Williams, T. M. (1981). How and what do children learn from television? Human Communication Research, 17, 180–192.Google Scholar
  46. Wood, J. T. (1995). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and culture. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  47. Wright, J. C., Huston, A. C., Reitz, A. L., & Piemyat, S. (1994). Young children's perceptions of television reality: Determinants and developmental differences. Developmental Psychology, 30, 229–239.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teresa L. Thompson
    • 1
  • Eugenia Zerbinos
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of CommunicationUniversity of DaytonDayton
  2. 2.East LansingMichiganUSA

Personalised recommendations