Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood EducationSex role stereotyping and gender bias permeate everyday life.

Children learn about sex roles very early in their lives, probably before they are 18 months old, certainly long before they enter school. (Howe, 1). The behaviors that form these sex roles often go unnoticed but their effect is immeasurable. Simple behaviors like: the color coding of infants (blue & pink), the toys children are given, the adjectives used to describe infants (boys: handsome, big, strong; girls: sweet, pretty, precious), and the way we speak to and hold them are but a few of the ways the sex roles are introduced. These behaviors provide the basis for the sex roles and future encouragement from parents and teachers only reinforce the sex roles.Toys, literature, media, and films also encourage sex roles.

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Males are depicted as “doing”, while females are always “receiving.” In this paper, 5 articles focusing on sex roles were used. The articles look at the damaging effects of sex role stereotyping, and some ways the sex roles are accentuated in the schools.The research on sex role stereotyping is currently growing.

There are many theories regarding its existence. Some attribute the sex roles to the media, literature and society, but it is a combination of all these factors. Despite the best of intentions by parents to not encourage the sex roles, at the time of kindergarten, children will demonstrate behaviors specific to their sex. It is believed that this phenomenon occurs because the children know that they are either a boy or a girl but are trying to figure out exactly what that means (Seid, 114).The behaviors that children seem to learn do have gender specific characteristics. Examples of male appropriate behavior includes: aggression, independence and curiosity. Female behaviors reflect the opposite of the male behaviors: passivity, dependence and timidity (Howe, 3).

Parents have a strong impact on the sex roles that children acquire. If the sex roles are stereotypical in the home then the children will imitate the behavior that is observed in the home. Simple, parental behaviors such as who drives and who pays for dinner influence the childrens perceptions of sex roles (Seid, 115).

This issue has been extensively researched. Howe states ” Schools function to reinforce the sexual stereotypes that children have been taught by their parents, friends and the mass culture we live in. It is also perfectly understandable that sexual stereotypes demeaning to women are also perpetuated by women – mothers in the first place, and teachers in the second – as well as by men – fathers, the few male teachers in elementary schools, high school teachers, and many male administrators at the top of the schools hierarchy” (Howe, 2).

In literature research, “the boys of childrens books are active and capable, and the girls passive and in trouble” (Howe,2).In a mental health study conducted by Inge K. Broverman at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts, it was discovered that the qualities more considered healthy were those that are stereotypically male behaviors.

Women exhibiting these socially desirable behaviors were; however, not considered healthy. Socially desirable male behavior Includes: aggression, independence, logic, confidence and ambition. Female behavior was passivity, dependence, cooth and empathy (Howe, 3). It has also been observed that despite any noticeable differences, girls are provided with fewer experiences “even in kindergarten” (Howe, 5). The junior high school and high school programs further accentuate the sex roles.

Courses such as shop, metalworking, home economics and typing often have gender requirements (Howe, 6).Another school arena for open sexual discrimination is physical education. The boys are often given priority in terms of equipment, gym availability and funding for athletic activities (Howe,6).

Howe continues to discover more and more ways that the sex roles are depicted in a negative or unflattering manner. She states, “The absence of the adventurous heroines may shock the innocent; the absence of even a few stories about women doctors, lawyers, or professors thwarts reality; but the consistent presence of one female stereotype is the most troublesome matter:Primrose was playing house. Just as she finished pouring tea for her dolls she began to think. She thought and thought and she thought some more: Whom shall I marry? Whomever shall I marry? I think I shall marry a mailman.

Then I could go over to everybodys house and give them their mail. Or I might marry a policeman. I could help him take the children across the street.

” (Howe, 7).In this example, Howe reiterates the lack of female models that girls are exposed to, and worse, the stereotypically, unflattering roles that they are exposed to. How can girls have heroes to emulate when there are no significant female roles portrayed. This story exemplifies the stereotypical female role of the woman searching for a man who will take care of her and then she can live vicariously through that man. This leads to the most criticized form of discrimination – language (Howe, 11).Language discrimination permeates society.

The most common example is in the use of maiden and marriage names. This reinforces the belief that the women “belong” to a man; first, her father, then her husband. Many words are gender specific and the “female” words usually have negative connotations. The female name of an animal is also a negative description of a womans character. Examples include: cow, bitch and *censored*. There is also the use of the word “man” in the names of many occupations: chairman, fireman, mailman, etc. Most of these professions have attempted to change the names to something more neutral and gender acceptable (Howe, 11).

The second article focused on the damaging effects of sex role stereotyping on men and boys, girls and women. A few of these effects are highlighted below. A. 1. “The damage of stereotyping can be more irreparable for the boy than for the girl. When boys learn stereotyped behavior there is a twenty percent better chance that it will stay with them for life than when girls learn stereotyped behaviors” (VOW, 1).

2. “Demands that boys conform to social notions of what is manly come much earlier and are reinforced with much more vigor than similar attitudes with respect to girls. Several research studies, using preschool children as their subjects, indicate that boys are aware of what is expected of them because they are boys and restrict their interests and activities to what is suitably masculine in kindergarten, while girls amble gradually in the direction of feminine patterns for five more years” (VOW, 1).A. 5.

“Six volumes of studies document that violence in American society is taught, learned and acted upon. Boys are actually encouraged to be aggressive by parents while girls are not. Almost all TV models encourage aggression in men.

Childhood aggression predictably results in continued undisguised aggression when boys become men” (VOW, 2).B. 7.

“Most boys recognize they cannot prove themselves on all levels but they must still choose between two basic images of what a man is and can be images which are apparent from both childrens books and numerous other sources. One image is the physical striving man and the other, the job striving man” (VOW, 2).C. 5. “Boys are the maladjusted, the low achievers, the truants, the delinquents, the inattentive and the rebellious. National delinquency rates are five times higher among boys than girls; in New York City, 63% of all drop-outs are boys”(VOW, 4).

D. 5. “Given the relative absence of male figures during his waking hours, the male toddler is hard pressed to find out what he is supposed to do.

When the father is present he usually surpasses the mother in punishing the boy for being too feminine perhaps because of his own sex role insecurities. The boy finds out that boys dont cry, boys dont cling, and so on, but often on the basis of negative sanctions from parents and peers” (VOW, 6).E. 1.

” as boys and girls progress through school, their opinions of boys grow increasingly more positive and their opinions of girls increasingly more negative. Both sexes are learning that boys are worth more” (VOW, 7).F.

4. “Both male and female college students feel the characteristics associated with masculinity are more valuable and more socially desirable than those associated with femininity” (VOW, 8).These are just a few of the effects listed in the publication. The publication breaks down the varying aspects of life that are affected by stereotyping. It discusses the levels of the various stereotypes.

I chose to quote such a great deal of this article because I felt it was too important to paraphrase and too important to be excluded from this paper. Other research has linked self-esteem and career aspirations to childrens perceptions about math and science.The results were astounding. “Students who like math (and science) possess significantly greater self-esteem — Students with higher self-esteem like math and science more.

These students like themselves more, feel better about their school work and grades, consider themselves more important, and feel better about their family relationships” (Greenberg-Lake, 16). The study also showed that girls self-esteem decreases dramatically from elementary school to high school and that the factors contributing to this decline are promoted in school (Daley, 1991).In another article, the first definitive signs of sex role segregation begin in kindergarten. It is believed that this sudden separation of the sexes occurs because children at this age are struggling with their identities and they are frightened of not acting in the expected manner so they go to the extremes of the roles in fear of rejection. Paul Jose, , says, “Kids this age are the worst chauvinists, because they are trying to define the really rather fuzzy categories of male and female” (Seid, 114).

The article also discusses the effects of the child observing the portrayal of the sex roles within his family. Examples of sex role “rules” are:-Girls dont play with boys because theyre dirty.-Thats too heavy, sweetheart, why dont you let your brother carry it upstairs for you.

-Dont be upset sweetheart. Math can be pretty hard for girls. -Are you sure you want to play baseball with the boys? They can be pretty rough. (Seid, 115).

Seid also states that children have clear ideas of how men and women behave, “Children of five and six see women as being emotional, nurturing and prone to crying while men are perceived as being strong, aggressive and dominant” (Seid, 115). Seid goes on to say that the gender differences will become defined regardless of the representation at home too. She attributes this to the media. According to Julie Dobrow, Ph.

D., “Toys are consistently designated as boy toys or girl toys. Boy ads are accompanied by loud, rhythmic, rap-like music and colors that are either dark or bold. Girl ads have soft, melodious music, a slower pace, and lots of pastel shades.

Kids pick up on these things” (Seid, 116).Another source of research dealt with gender- biased student /teacher interactions. The article cited example such as calling on boys more than girls, giving boys a longer period of time to respond and accepting boys called-out answers more frequently than girls (1). In terms of feedback and praise, girls are praised more for form than content and discipline boys more than girls (1). Noddings states, “The male experience is the standard not only in education but, more generally, in all of public policy. This statement further illicits the separation of the sexes.

Not only do women not have any substantial or significant role models displayed to them throughout the course of history; they also have to follow the rules of society that are predominantly dictated by the upper class, Caucasian male. This excludes well over half the population of the nation. Our country is saying that essentially, just a few of us, the elite, will govern and make the rules, but we expect everyone; regardless, of how these rules may affect your life to obey them. That is putting a number of our citizens at a high risk for failure.

Society needs to change to accommodate the growing needs of its Although most of the research seems to indicate that sex role stereotyping permeates our society and our schools, there are ways to discourage children from falling into the stereotypical roles. It will take the voices of everyone to make a change in the way that society portrays boys and men, girls and women. We are doing an injustice to our children by encouraging these roles. Educators need to become increasingly aware of their practices in their classrooms.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of segregating the sexes; all of us have to support and encourage our children that they can do and be anything. When enough people believe that the sex roles can be diminished, then society, the media and the government will follow.Bibliography:


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