How Children Learn “Proper” Gender Roles and Consequences of Sex Role Socialization

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Children are frequently affected by society expectations and gender roles. Toys and other socialization tools are introduced to children by their parents in order to teach them about gender roles. In contrast to buying dolls and sets of kitchenware for girls, parents typically encourage boys to play recreationally with footballs and toy cars. In order to prepare them for the triple function of community management, productive, and reproductive roles, girls are taught how to cook and raise children. This is different with boys whose interaction with toy cars and footballs reinforce the idea that they are fashioned to take up responsibilities which require a lot of physical activity. External events exert an influence on children to imitate actions which are perceived as norms. Kids grow up with numerous influential models after whom they want to take up.

Peers act as agents of socialization as well. Boys opt to socialize with fellow boys of their age and so do girls. Peers are likely to react with ridicule when typical gender behaviors are violated. For instance, girls are associated with beauty that involves ear piercing whereas for the gents it serves as ridicule to a boy with a pierced ear. Maintaining beauty being associated with girls comes as a result of understanding the categorization of what is deemed as male and female. This is explained in cognitive development theory that suggest that gender role development result from children’s cognitions; children grow up understanding that gender does not change with time therefore, opt to relate with people of the same sex and ultimately develop appropriate roles.

The application of reinforcement and punishment has also resulted to children taking up gender roles that are specific to their gender. In situations, whereby girls are offered gifts for maintaining proper hygiene in households, they tend to be encouraged and maintain the practice as their responsibility. There are also instances where girls are physically beaten by parents when caught watching violent video games that would probably make them violent in nature. Boys on the other hand are encouraged to take up tasks that require more physical energy such as building kennels. Behaviors that result to punishment are likely to be avoided by both girls and boys and at such, roles are shaped up. This goes handy with social-learning theory of development that suggests that children’s gender roles are achieved through observation, reward and instructions. Gender schema theory suggests that culture plays a major role in shaping up gender roles.

Another agent of socialization is the media. Most of the television casts portray men as independent, breadwinners and professionals. The status earns them the chance to control family expenditures and make major family decisions. Women on the other hand are portrayed as subordinate staff in areas of work, responsible for child upbringing and house chores. Children learn such roles from the media and grow up having identified themselves with tasks deemed appropriate for their gender.

Teachers also use the hidden curriculum to reinforce social stereotypes to boys and girls. Most teachers are seen to give boys more opportunities of answering questions than girls. Additionally, research on gendered pedagogy in laboratory experiments suggests that some teachers prefer giving girls the task of reading measurements while boys do the actual testing. Such nuances reinforce the idea that some tasks are specifically meant for boys and some for girls.

The Effect of Social Cultural Factors on Male and Female Behavior

As a result of male dominance being reinforced in the society, interaction between women and men confirms its existence. For instance, at domestic levels, women mostly use polite words such as ‘could we’ to precede a suggestion. This is different with men who talk more, cause interruptions during talks and seem to be more direct. In education sectors, girls are taught how to sew and prepare meals, whereas gents are subjected to vocational training and carpentry. These subjections are considered as a way of meeting the society’s expectation. As a result, boys and girls adopt behaviors which are deemed appropriate for their gender by the society.

The media; television, magazines and business journals, brings out the society’s perception on gender. To be specific, television programs mostly depict women as humble, peacemakers, adorable and social. Gents are depicted as aggressive, rational, stable and with more power. There are video games which depict women as feeble beings- often powerless and in need of help from a powerful man. Through the influence of media and its conceptualization of gender, men, women, boys and girls are likely to borrow characters portrayed in the cast and end up making the behaviors part of them. Religion also affects how men and women behave. Christianity encourages women to be submissive to their husbands and take up the major role of child upbringing in humility. Gents are admonished to protect their families and offer security for better living.

Social positions also affect behavior. In family settings, hierarchy is realized whereby the father being the head of the house secure major obligations such as resolving conflicts whereas the women during that situation agree or support resolutions made by the family head. At workplace, men mostly take up leadership positions in which they mainly act as advisors and supervisors of women at the work place. Men as community, religious and political leaders often control the economy. Men mostly deal with high value commodities while women are relegated to relatively lower value commodities. For instance, in Sub-Saharan Africa, women plant and sell bananas while men plant and sell cart for their livelihood. Women therefore prefer handling subsistence needs due to the meager amounts they earn while men are responsible for investments and other bigger responsibilities such as paying school fees for their children. As a result, men use money to negotiate power and control over the family’s decisions.

Consequences of the lives of men as a result of patriarchy’s emphasis on being disconnected, independent and in control.

Patriarchy has the effect of making men only devote time and concern to themselves when relating to women. This phenomenon, as explained using the analogy of cold-blooded animals which only generate heat for their own bodies brings the understanding that men tend to be self-centered in events where women only focus on their demands when relating with men.

Masculinity – puts men in situations where they view their “completeness” in society as only achievable by being competitive in order to receive acknowledgement, recognition and ultimately meet the standards of leadership. Men prefer togetherness with fellow men to achieve competitiveness rather than working with women and therefore end up failing to consider the needs of women. The need to incorporate women’s needs in their operations is likely to challenge men and patriarchal systems, since this translates to considering the desires of women which is contrary to men’s nature of self-centeredness. Men’s position brought about by patriarchy disconnects them from women. As a result, the men feel denied, rejected and none of women’s business due to resentment portrayed by women. Women’s state of feeling unloved and uncared for is all brought about by patriarchy. Patriarchal systems reinforce in men the idea of self-acknowledgement which makes them focus on protecting their own interests and sidelining the women

According to Johnson (2005), the myth of mother power mainly serves as a staircase for men to overcome subordination from women-the power from women experienced by men while being nursed by mothers at tender ages -and take up patriarchal roles that are deemed as the obligations of manhood. Men’s identity is achieved by replacing mother power with patriarchy. Womanhood and manhood therefore have different views. Ladies and gents grow up focusing on characteristics that are likely to identify them with persons of the same sex and gender. Boys for instance, disconnect themselves from their mothers and tend to adopt characteristics such as being controllers, domineering and zealous. Boys therefore model themselves after their fathers, keeping off from their mothers. The same applies to ladies who associate themselves with mothers to achieve womanhood. As highlighted by Barnett & Rivers (2005) ladies tend to mold themselves around characters of being subtle and calm, they learn to embrace subordination and they take up house chores. Ultimately, men are said to achieve manhood when their acts are defined by the power they possess. Women on the other hand are assumed to achieve womanhood when they fit into subordination.

Negative impacts of patriarchy alienate fathers from their families. This is a result of a patriarchal notion that devalues domestic roles and makes fatherhood deem beyond family concern. In this case, fathers tend not to be concerned on the whereabouts of their children, what should be considered as the day’s meal, whether the family has enough clothing, for patriarchy leads them to live in the assumption that such roles for women. Unlearning negative cultures require a deliberate effort by parents in order to raise generations which are responsible and true to their duties regardless of the status quo and the demands of the society.


Barnett, R. C., & Rivers, C. (2005). Same difference: How gender myths are hurting our relationships, our children and our jobs. New York: BasicBooks

Johnson, A. G. (2005). The gender knot: Unraveling our patriarchal legacy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press

March 15, 2023

Family Sociology

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Children Society Gender Roles

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