Gender Stereotype: Past & Still Present?

4.3 based on 12 ratings

Updated on Feb 11, 2012

Grade Level: 9th - 12th; Type: Social Science


  • How do children, today, perceive gender roles in society?
  • What are the differences in perception between generations?

  • Are there differences in gender stereotypes between children of different ages?
  • Has our current condition improved? Are we moving toward a more equal society with regards to gender?

Our preconceived notions of "woman's work" and a "man's job" are often formed at a very young age. Even infants are assigned a color when their sex is determined, blue for boys and pink for girls. Gender specific toys and expectations in behavior also occur at a young age (Thorne, 1993). This is most prevalent in sports. Metheny (1965) researched the perceptions of male and female sports where women's sports were more of beauty and aesthetics such as dancing, while men's sports were competitive and aggressive as we see in football. However, in 2006, Schmalz & Kerstetter studied 8-10 year-old children and their participation and views of gender and sports. This study concluded that gender categorization with regards to sports was improving. Neutral gender sports, such as running, cycling, golfing, and karate, were on the rise. Many girls were playing "masculine" sports while boys were participating in traditionally "feminine" activities. Despite this improvement gender stereotypes still exist and can influence a child in negative ways. As we progressively move into the 21st century is society creating a more equal playing field for girls and boys?

  • Questionnaires
  • Stop Watch/Timer

This study will examine the perceptions of students of various ages on gender stereotypes. There are many aspects of this topic. Brainstorm ideas of what you would like to examine. The following is a list of the possible topics:

  • Sports
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Family

Although your experiment will differ according to your topic you can follow this general procedure:

  1. Develop a questionnaire. Based on your research what are the topics you would like to cover? What are the key questions or tests you will need to ask your subjects?
  2. Define your experimental groups.
    1. Males (of a single age group)
    2. Females (of a single age group)
    3. Age groups (Elementary school ages, High School ages, Adults, Seniors)
  3. Define you study population. You should choose at least 10 people for each of your experimental groups. Your final data is more convincing with a larger study population, recruit more subjects if possible.
  4. Find a quiet room to perform your study. Each subject should answer their questionnaires in the same room so make sure that room is available throughout your study.
  5. Gather subjects’ background information that is pertinent to your study.
    1. Age
    2. Family dynamic: Parents? Siblings?
    3. Ethnicity
    4. School
    5. Occupation
  6. Have each subject answer the questionnaire individually. There should be no one else in the room except you. This will decrease the possibility of distraction.
  7. After all questionnaires have been completed analyze your data according to gender and/or age. Based on your background research you should have an idea of how to score each of your questions.
  8. Organize your data. Since the answers are subjective you will need to provide an overall summary of your data.
    1. Can you make generalizations?

i. Does one gender and/or age group answer in the same way?

    1. What does each subject perceive about the roles of males and females?

i. Do they perceive males as the providers and females as the nurturers?

Example: How do young children perceive gender in 21st century?

For this example we will be examining the perceptions of children, present day, and compare their perceptions to past generations (based on past research studies). The study population consists of 10 boys and 10 girls between the ages of 4-10. Each subject will be asked to answer the following questions:

Decide whether the person I am describing is a male or female. Why did you choose your answer?

    1. Pat was in medical school, but when given the opportunity to dance with the ballet company medical school was put on hold.
    2. Kris is very athletic and loves hockey but Kris would rather play the flute than watch a hockey game on T.V.
    3. Lane is an accomplished violinist and rocket scientist.
    4. Jamie is an advocate for green initiatives; ironically, Jamie also loves monster trucks.
  1. The Gender Photo Project – See bibliography.
    1. An image of a person will flash on the screen. Decide whether this person is a male or female. Why did you choose your answer?
  2. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  3. Answer the following questions with yes or no.
    1. I enjoy picking out my own clothes at the store.
    2. I enjoy playing video games about war or combat.
    3. I would like to take a dance class.
    4. I do not like playing house.
    5. When I grow up I would like to work and have a family.
    6. When I grow up I would like to stay at home and take care of my family.

Terms/Concepts: What are the negative and positive gender stereotypes?; How do children form these stereotypes?;How does society contribute to gender stereotypes?; What improvements have been made with regard to gender equality?


  • Thorne, B. (1993) Gender play: Girls and boys in school. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Metheny, E. (1965). Connotations of movement in sport and dance. McGraw-Hill.
  • Schmalz, D., & Kerstetter, D. (2006). Girlie Girls and Manly Men: Children's Stigma Consciousness of Gender in Sports and Physical Activities. Journal of Leisure Research, 38(4), 536-557.
Melissa Bautista is a research scientist, freelance editor, and writer, with a focus in Neuroscience. She believes in establishing solid foundations in education through experience, creativity, and collaboration. She is fascinated by pedagogy and the concept of learning through living.

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