1. Children as young as six years old already have assumed beliefs about how gender plays a role in society (Berk 2009). They are already beginning to assume personality traits and societal status of their peers based on their gender (Gelman 2004). When these stereotypes are reinforced at such an early age they can have long lasting effects on the child’s development later in life. Gender roles in society assume everything for academic aptitude to career proficiency, which have a direct affect how children begin to imagine their life trajectory (Rainey 1999).
Children from an early age in to adolescence are most strongly influenced by their parents. In order to equalize the perceptions of gender roles in this country, we have to identify how parents can positively affect their children’ perceptions of the roles of their own gender, and the genders of their peers. In general, parent’s views on gender roles tend to transfer to their children of the same gender more strongly (Halpern 2015). Daughters of mothers who wouldn’t fit in a traditional gender role tend to have a more open opinion on the gender roles of all women. There is a similar effect seen in the relationship between a father’s perception of gender roles and those of their sons (Halpern 2015).
More directly than a parent’s views on gender roles, a parent’s behavior is a predictor for children’s perceptions of gender roles (Halpern 2015). In order to meaningfully change how gender roles are perceived in future generations, adults now have to begin to demonstrate gender equality. Change can be affected much faster if as a nation we can all begin to actively take on roles in the family or at work that are traditionally done by a different gender. Parents now have to commit to show their children through action that gender doesn’t confine people to a particular way of life.
2. Development of Gender Roles
Personally, I believe that the parents have the largest influence on a child’s gender roles. Gender roles are pushed by parents as soon as the baby is born. Babies are assigned a gender based on the physical anatomy of their bodies, and as their cognitive development starts, they are manipulated to believe all of the stereotypes associated with their assigned gender. During this early stage of a child’s life their primary source of knowledge comes from their caregivers, and parents. According “Human Sexuality Diversity in Contemporary America “parents manipulate their children from infancy onward, they treat their daughters gently and tell her she is pretty, and they treat their sons roughly and tel him that he is strong” (Sayad, Yarber, 2013). Parents teach their children what is appropriate, and what is inappropriate for their genders.
If a dad see’s his son playing with a Barbie, he will likely distract him with a different toy, or advise him that this particular toy is for girls. The dad might react this way because he is afraid that if he lets his son play with the barbie then that is allowing him to act like a girl, and this will lead to him being a homosexual. While the likely-hood of this being the determining factor of a person’s sexuality, it is indeed taboo for boys to play with toys that are intended for girls. There is double standard when it comes to girls playing with toys that are intended for boys. According to The National Association for the Education of the Young Child, Children benefit cognitively from playing with toys. A boy can learn to care for a baby, and practice his ability to nurture by playing with dolls. Children develop gender identity between 18 months and 3 years, gender typing is established by 4-5 years and gender role development happens by 5 years. Since the parents are responsible for early gender role pushing and continue to carry out these gender stereotypes long before children are old enough to be influenced by teachers, media, or any other outside influence. They are indeed the main contributers to their child’s gender role.