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Investigations into the effects of sex-role stereotyping on children in grade three

Ochman, Janet Marie (1991) Investigations into the effects of sex-role stereotyping on children in grade three. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Sex role stereotypes are pervasive and detrimental. Studies into self-esteem, sex role attitudes, and occupational aspirations show that these areas are affected by sex role stereotypes, even in very young children. This thesis reports three studies. In two of the studies the effects of nonstereotyped stories on children are investigated. In the other study, the development of a new instrument for measuring sex role stereotypes in children is reported.

Study One examined the effect of nonstereotyped stories on third grade children. Five groups were formed from a total of 346 children. Four of the groups were exposed to the stories and varied from each other according to the sex of the story reader and the sex of the main character. The fifth group was a control group. Previously published measures of occupational aspirations, self-esteem, sex role attitudes, and gender constancy were administered in pre-and posttest format to all the children. No significant main effects or interactions on any variable were found with the 2 X 5 ANOVAs, although almost significant (p < .10) effects were found on self-esteem and gender constancy scores. Significant results were found with the 2 X 2 X 2 ANOVAs on sex-role attitude and gender constancy scores, indicating that girls' scores increased more than boys' scores in the experimental groups, and an interaction was found on self-esteem scores, indicating that girls' scores increased more when exposed to a female character; boys' scores increased more when exposed to a male character.

The second study reports the development of a new instrument for measuring sex role stereotypes. The new measure was developed from examining the construct validity of previously published measures and from a pool of items gathered from children. The new scale, given to 722 children, was found to be internally consistent. It was subsequently shortened to facilitate administration.

Study Three reports a second investigation into the effects of nonstereotyped stories. Three groups were formed from 303 third grade children. One group was exposed to nonstereotyped stories. another group was exposed to stereotyped stories, and the third group was a control group. All children were pre-and posttested on measures of self-esteem, sex role attitudes and gender constancy. Data on pronoun use, story preferences, and memory and comprehension were also included in analyses. Results revealed that girls and boys in the nonstereotyped group increased in self-esteem and decreased in sex role stereotyping relative to the control group. Girls' gender constancy scores in the stereotyped group increased more than the girls' scores in the nonstereotyped group. In comparison to the stereotyped group, the nonstereotyped group remembered less about two of the stories. It was noted that when analysed in context of experimental condition, boys and girls in both experimental groups used more masculine than feminine pronouns in answering questions about the stories. They also made more errors in recalling the correct gender of a story character when that character was female.

Conclusions are drawn about the possible positive effects of increased nonstereotyped literature for children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Peterson, Candi and Walker, Iain
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