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Gender Socialization by Families and Schools

Most gender socialization in contemporary society comes from the closest contacts of a child from a young age; family and school. When I was growing up, the first agent of gender socialization I encountered was family; father, mother, and siblings (Kollmayer et al., 335). Family plays a pivotal role in gender socialization as it is the center of focus in a child’s development. Family is where we learn the appropriate behavior, attitudes, and overall cultural practices as we grow up as children. The first experiences of gender expectations came from family members. For instance, fathers act as role models to boys while girls emulate mothers. Families expect girls and boys to have different gender-related capabilities and personality traits, and family reinforces them in various ways. One way in which parents reinforce these gender-specific traits is through play from toys they buy their children. For instance, as children, boys are were bought toy cars or sports equipment while girls were bought dolls and kitchen sets in most cases.

Schools form the second phase of gender socialization for children. In schools, children encounter teachers, peers, and curricular activities as the primary agents of gender socialization (Gansen, 265). These agents influence gender socialization in their own capacities. Teachers play a huge role in the gender socialization of children in school by modeling gender roles. For instance, coachers of most sports teams are male while female teachers are given less active roles. Teachers also influence the gender expectations of children in class through activities they assign. Teachers normally assign boy activities such as block construction and assign girls associated with female activities like dressing up. Also, girls were expected to be better in reading and languages and boys to do well in math and science. Also, curricular materials such as textbooks and other reading materials contained gender-stereotypical text and pictures. These materials influence the children’s behaviors, attitudes, and expectations shaping gender socialization.

There were behaviors regarding gender socialization throughout school and home that were encouraged or discouraged. For instance, hair grooming was one of the keys focuses in both schools and homes. Our parents, as well as teachers, emphasized so much on hair grooming. Boys were encouraged to keep their hair short, while girls were expected to have long hair. Boys with long hair cuts were constantly mistaken for girls and faced constant ridicule from their peers in school. This was instilled in us right from a young age, and it played a huge role in shaping gender socialization.

Another overly encouraged behavior was cleanliness and personal grooming. Teachers and parents put a lot of emphasis on the importance of cleanliness and personal grooming since they were young (Gansen, 398). However, girls were expected to be neat than boys in their endeavors. For instance, girls’ rooms were expected to be cleaner and more organized than boys’. Girls who were less organized and messier were constantly criticized for having boy behaviors. Also, girls were encouraged to be well-mannered and more respectful than boys and were associated with brighter colors like white and pink. Similarly, it was somehow normal for boys to be rowdy and have messier rooms. Most parents enforced more strict measures to keep the boys in line compared to girls.

Some of the discouraged behaviors both in school and at home were disrespect, bullying, and violence (Rosen and Stacey, 300). Disrespecting someone, especially an older person, was an offense as we grew up. Parents and teachers emphasized a lot on mutual respect between boys and girls as well as their elders. However, society is more stereotypical and concerned about respect for the female gender. Boys were expected to be more respectful than girls. Also, boys were more associated with violent activities compared to girls. Girls were deemed to be more fragile to indulge in violent behaviors.

Work Cited

Gansen, Heidi M. “Reproducing (and disrupting) heteronormativity: Gendered sexual socialization in preschool classrooms.” Sociology of Education 90.3 (2017): 255-272.

Rosen, Nicole L., and Stacey Nofziger. “Boys, bullying, and gender roles: How hegemonic masculinity shapes bullying behavior.” Gender Issues 36.3 (2019): 295-318.

Gansen, Heidi M. “Push-ups versus clean-up: Preschool teachers’ gendered beliefs, expectations for behavior, and disciplinary practices.” Sex Roles 80.7 (2019): 393-408.

Kollmayer, Marlene, et al. “Parents’ judgments about the desirability of toys for their children: Associations with gender role attitudes, gender-typing of toys, and demographics.” Sex Roles 79.5 (2018): 329-341.


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