How does a Child’s Gender Role impact their Socialisation Skills

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Last updated: April 10, 2019

There have been specific gender roles assigned to males and females, stated their ‘place’. Men and women are not just physically different, but psychologically and mentally very different as well. Activities, appearance, communication and future prospects of each child are varied by their gender, allowing them to do things that are available exclusively to their gender. The need to conform to these stereotypes is greatly reinforced in everyday life, by parents and teachers, but even more so by the media. Men are judged by their masculinity and women by their femininity.

This essay will explore socialisation of children within different establishments, the impact of the Parent’s own beliefs/values on the child, addressing issues with inequality and applying aspects of the ‘Nature versus Nurture’ debate. The stereotypes that are assigned to each sex are commonly known in society, and are almost like a set of rules, and if you do not abide by these ‘rules’, you can become a social outcast. For example, if a boy tells people he wants to be a ballerina or a beautician when he is older, he can be ridiculed by his peers and the people around him in general.These stereotypes that decide how each gender should behave and look are passed on mainly through the influence of the child’s parents.

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These parents will reinforce the child for the ‘normal behaviour’, stopping them from participating in an activity that doesn’t fit their category. These categories and aspects of stereotypes are reinforced by society, in order to make people conform a certain way. Common stereotypes for the male insist on them being tough, unemotional and masculine.They must be interested in typical ‘lad’ activities, such as football, as well as dressing in a certain way – they are expected to support women and children when they get older. Females on the other hand are the opposite. They represent femininity and are pretty, quaint, caring individuals – so they could have a future as a parent. This gender segregation is clear early on in infancy, when the babies are separated by the colour of their clothes; this is then reinforced later on, as they grow older. Socialisation for children typically starts at home with the parents.

Parents teach their children from a very young age to obey commands, even if the child doesn’t want to perform the task. This form of very basic socialisation is important for later, more complex developments – including the child’s own ideas of their gender and personality (Kochanska, Murray, ; Harlan 2000). Also many aspects of a boy’s development can be hindered by his parents as they are better at socialising with girls.

Girls are more sensitive and can reveal their needs more clearly than boys, as they are naturally better at conveying their feelings vocally than boys (Hendrickson Eagly, Beall, ; Sternberg 2004).Obviously a lot about gender is learnt directly as a child observes their parents in everyday life, with what parent is the main breadwinner, who does the chores around the house etc. If these are not taught correctly, a child can have a very confused outlook on how they should be or act. Not only are gender roles learnt through observation, or by orders of the parent, but how their emotions and actions are interpreted by the adult. Condry ; Condry conducted an experiment in which a group of parents observed a baby playing with a card on a video. The card is taken away by a participant in the video and the child starts crying.One group of parents are told the child was a boy, and the others are told it is a girl.

They are then asked how they thought the child reacted and all the parents that believed the child was a boy thought he was angry – whereas the other group felt sorry for the girl. This is greatly down to stereotypical views created, viewing girls as delicate creatures and boys as tough and demanding. The emotional needs for boys can be neglected by parents, as they are expected to be strong and resilient, and not need all the emotional support that girls need.Socialisation in the school environment is the next step up for children in learning about their gender roles and responsibilities. For boys, again, this is a difficult area. Boys have been taught to be competitive and dominant by their parents, and this excitable and active persona of the boys is not adapted well into the classroom – which is an area where they must conform, sit quietly and obey the teacher’s requests.

This is reinforced by Connell (1989), as he reflects on these aspects of gendered behaviour and applies it to the generalised behaviour of a ‘good student’.Sue Sharpe (1994) studied the impact of socialisation on young girls in education over the period of 1970s – 1990s. Her research was named ‘Just Like a Girl’, and focused on 249 working class girls in the education system in London. Sharpe found that girls in the 1990s had more assertiveness and independence than the girls in the study in the 1970s, but still had changed very little in comparison to their male counterparts. A lot of the reason to why these girls were more confident and self-determining in the later decade was because they were labelled as ‘Thatcher’s children’.This was a time where women were given a greater sense of power, and a stronger sense of unity as a group.

Margaret Thatcher had an ultimate role of power, and men worked for her. This showed the female population that they could be strong and assertive like her. Feminism was also becoming a more prominent argument within society, which allowed women to accept they were worth more. Girls after 16, tended to decide to move into further education in the Nineties, wanting to expand their opportunities in later life.Although all these characteristics are a positive thing, one major thing hadn’t really changed since the Seventies, and this was the fact that girls still were looking to take on ‘Women’s work’. Many wanted to take on care work, typically with children, which reinforced there was still a feminist stereotype dominating the kind of work girls thought they could take on. Sadker and Sadker (1994) commented on how teachers directly reinforce the gendered stereotypes that children should learn.

They found that many boys could catch the teacher’s attention more successfully, as well as boys being given longer for the responses to questions and more help and praise than girls. Girls did not receive this academic encouragement, making them believe their needs were second to the boys in the classroom. Worryingly, teachers paid more attention to the appearance of girls, commenting on their clothing – thus reinforcing the idea that girls should be ‘pretty’. This could contribute to the increasing problems with young girls and ‘self-image’.Socialisation of children is significantly affected by the mass media.

A good example of this is TV advertisements and magazines, showing how the ‘normal’ man or woman should look. Even material that is designed for young children to watch shows that the male characters exert their dominance and importance over the female characters, usually saving the ‘damsels in distress’. The Disney film collection is a good example of this, in particular The Little Mermaid and Cinderella – where they represent sex objects that are part of a male conquest.Women are commonly portrayed as sex objects designed to fulfil the men’s needs. Grescoe (1996) reflected on sexual content in films and television and also highlights on the fact that women are portrayed as ‘sexually passive’, having control over their sex drives, which men cannot control. Grescoe goes on to say that this can result in women being held responsible for the moral standard within the sexual experience, and can also be blamed when it comes to contraception. Body weight, a major issue in society, particularly with young girls, is studied by Fouts ; Burggraf (2000).They concluded characters that were young, thin and attractive were over represented in TV shows, and fatter characters that were portrayed as ugly, were increasingly under represented, and tended to be ridiculed if they made an appearance.

They went on to find a positive correlation between the female character’s body weight, and the male character’s negative comments about her weight or body. They also noted that the audience’s reactions to these negative comments (about 80% of the time) were greeted with laughter, giggles or ‘oohs’.This is mocking larger framed women (and men) in the show. Men are also portrayed in a very discriminate way, mostly in their typical masculine roles. Boys are typically shown as trouble-makers, whose interests are in sports, travel and rougher games. Men in films and television are typically shown as tough and masculine, with no show on emotion – they support women and children, who are pathetically helpless. There are male intended genres; these include sport related shows, westerns and action films.

It is intended that women watch more emotional shows, like soaps and ‘rom coms’. There are many impacts these stereotypical views have on children. Sexuality is an area that is greatly discriminated against, particularly in the mass media. There is an under representation of gay and lesbian couples or individuals, and when they are shown, it is usually mocking them. Many gay men are at the mercy of negative remarks, as the characteristics of ‘being gay’ is greatly theatrical, almost turning the characters into clowns, just for the characters and audiences to laugh at.In schools, it is clear that there is a great deal of discrimination that is imprisoning children from being who they want to be. Connell (1989) claims that boys feel inadequate as a male if they achieve well academically, as this distracts away from their intended role, and therefore puts them at the mercy of their peer group.

Another problem when it comes to issues in socialisation within the home environment is when there is a lack of role models available to the child.Children on the whole relate best to the same-sex parent, meaning that a lack of that parent can cause difficulties for the child, in not knowing how they should behave or act. In some cases, this lack of role models or similar peers of the same sex can confuse children. The result to this in later life can be troubles with sexuality, not understanding their same sex peers, or taking a worrying interest in the opposite sex to the point where they can become obsessive. Typically, families that are portrayed show the man, still as the breadwinner, successful husband and father – looking after his family.

The women are in many cases, still, doing domesticated tasks. A growing concern is for children with the concept of body image. With the rising statistics on eating disorders and new ‘success diets’ becoming available, it is clear that these images children see impact them. With the heavy influence of the mass media on children, brainwashing them to be a certain way, the future looks bleak for the future generation of children. The way gender is portrayed and ‘taught’ to children is clearly flawed.These discriminating, narrow viewpoints of what each gender is supposed to be like can result in many confused children, who never gain their full potential in life.

While these prejudices still exist, we shall remain in a society of inequality. These aspects restrict children, denying them freedom to be who they want to be, and be involved in the activities they enjoy. One solution to improving the poor state of equality in gender related areas, and others, such as ethnicity and social class, is to stop the material that reinforces these issues in the media.Children are directly affected by advertisements and magazines, but more so television, as a very large amount of children watch a significant amount of TV throughout the day. Another way to reinforce equality would be to educate the teachers and parents of the dangers of gender stereotyping, and encouraging them to be more open about issues of prejudice.

This would allow more freedom within the home and classroom – which would therefore mean children, would feel more valued and have their say. With teachers and parents actively fighting against issues of inequality, children can learn from example.

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