Monday, March 1, 2010

Mobili - Gender Stereotypes

http://blog.prospect.org/blog/ezraklein/xkcd.png

I found this interesting series of posts on the origins and nature of gender stereotypes, which is part of what we are trying to dissolve here so that we can be our authentic selves. When we get locked into externally constructed roles, we cease to be free to embody our own unique identity as men (or women).

[As an aside, Mobilis in Mobili, which the blogger says means ‘moving in moving things’ (from Jules Verne), seems like a cool blog from a curious mind - check it out.]

We often use gender stereotypes to force children into conventional roles, especially when they exhibit characteristics different from the standard role - see the last paragraph in this first entry.

Gender Stereotypes

By mobili

What are some examples of gender stereotypes? Describe the development of gender stereotyping from early childhood into adolescence.

Gender stereotyping can occur in many forms and at many stages of development. Studies show that gender stereotyped behavior can be increased by parental behavior in very early childhood. As one example, children’s scores on sex role discrimination at age 4 were elevated in children whose parents had shown sex-typed toy preference at 18 months (Fagot & Leinbach, 1989). Similarly, another study identified the emergence of gender labeling at about 18 months (Zosuls et al., 2009). Another study showed that the use of gender in functional categories (e.g. “Good morning, boys and girls”) by teachers in elementary school led to subsequent increase in gender stereotyping among the students (Bigler, 1995). Interestingly, from a developmental point of view, this increase in gender stereotyping was largest among students who had not yet developed multiple classification skill. Susan Witt studied the relative influence of parents and peers and found that parents had the more profound influence on gender stereotypes. In addition, she argues, “Sex role stereotypes are well established in early childhood” (Witt, 1997, para. 11). Other research shows gender stereotypes to be quite persistent, “The experimental intervention with elementary school children led to a reduction of occupational stereotyping. Children’s own occupational aspirations were not, however, significantly affected” (Bigler & Liben, 1990).

Gender stereotypes can be created and reinforced in many ways. They can be accidentally reinforced by the unspoken assumptions of caregivers and peers. Gender discriminated color choices (e.g. pink & blue), toy choices (Barbies & GI Joes) and even behavioral expectations (playing catch & playing house) are all examples of unconscious gender role differentiation. More deliberately, boys are frequently expected to play sports, be tough and exhibit characteristics our culture associates with masculinity. Likewise, girls are directed towards dolls and more feminine behaviors and pursuits. Statements like “You hit like a girl” and “Boys don’t cry” make crystal clear the societal expectations for both genders. As socialization and maturation progresses, peer pressure to conform can easily come to include gender stereotyped behaviors. The enforced conformity of adolescence certainly adds to the stereotyping, but as we’ve seen above, gender stereotypes are well in place from very early on.

References

Bee, H., & Boyd, B. (2007). The developing child (11th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bethus, I., Lemaire, V., Lhomme, M., & Goodall, G. (2005). Does prenatal stress affect latent inhibition? It depends on the gender. Behavioural Brain Research, 158(2), 331-338. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6SYP-4DK6CJD-2&_user=10&_coverDate=03%2F30%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1222824518&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=e7d13098aea78daa2a945fe5a7a14c84

Bigler, R. S. (1995, August). The role of classification skill in moderating environmental influences on children’s gender stereotyping: A study of the functional use of gender in the classroom. Child Development, 66(3), 1072-1087. doi: 10.1111/1467-8624.ep9509180275

Burman, D., Biten, T., & Booth, J. (2008). Sex differences in neural processing of language among children. Neuropsychologia, 46(5), 1349-1362 . doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.021

Fagot, B. I., & Leinbach, M. D. (1989, June). The young child’s gender schema: Environmental input, internal organization. Child Development, 60(3), 663-672. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mnh&AN=2737015&site=ehost-live

Lenroot, R., Gogtay, N., Greenstein, D., Wells, E., Wallace, G., Clasen, L., Blumenthal, J., … Giedd, J. (2007, March 17). Sexual dimorphism of brain developmental trajectories during childhood and adolescence. NeuroImage, 36, 1065-1073. Retrieved from http://www.boysadrift.com/2007Giedd.pdf

ScienceDaily. (2008). Boys’ And girls’ brains Are different: Gender differences in language appear biological. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303120346.htm

Witt, S. D. (1997, Summer). Parental influence on children’s socialization to gender roles. Adolescence. Retrieved from http://gozips.uakron.edu/~susan8/parinf.htm

Zosuls, K. M., Ruble, D. N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shrout, P. E., Bornstein, M. H., & Greulich, F. K. (2009, May). The acquisition of gender labels in infancy: Implications for gender-typed play. Developmental Psychology, 45(3), 688-701. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=39568482&site=ehost-live
The author of the blog followed this initial post with a few more - the second one looks at gender differences.

Gender Differences

February 25, 2010 by mobili

Gender stereotyping is a very interesting, important, and complex subject. Stereotype is defined as “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2010). Thus, stereotyping is oversimplified, uncritical, and perhaps even prejudiced. It also lumps all members of the group into the same simplistic judgment. On its face, stereotyping is wrong.

Our society has entertained many gender stereotypes over its history. Most were directly prejudicial to women. The most recent swing of the pendulum brought the culture to a belief in androgyny, a belief that all Homo sapiens have “the characteristics or nature of both male and female” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2010). However, recent neurobiological research demonstrates that this cultural assumption, however laudably equitable, is simply not correct.

A recent NIH/NIMH study found that “robust sex differences in developmental trajectories were noted for nearly all (brain) structures” (Lenroot et al., 2007). The study also noted “peak gray matter volumes generally occurring earlier for females” and that “mean total cerebral volume was approximately 10% larger in males. Total cerebral volume peaked at 10.5 years in females and 14.5 years in males” (Lenroot et al., 2007). Thus, on average, male brains are larger than female brains and both total brain volume and gray matter volumes peaked 1 ½ to 2 years earlier in females than males.

A different study found that “girls rely on a supramodal language network, whereas boys process visual and auditory words differently” (Burman, Biten, & Booth, 2008). In other words, females use different parts of their brain to process language and do so in a different fashion than males.

With the recent developments in modern neural imaging technology, brains can be observed as never before. A flood of research is revealing many new facts about how our brains work. Many of those facts are revelations about how distinct average male and female brains really are. One other study I would like to note is from a different field. This study examined prenatal stress in rats and its effect on “latent inhibition (LI),” a Pavlovian conditioned response. Fascinatingly, “prenatal stress increased the amount of LI only in the males” (Bethus, Lemaire, Lhomme, & Goodall, 2005). In this pre-natal (i.e. almost entirely social influence free) study, female rats were unaffected.

The body of evidence is large and growing larger that, on average, males and females have significant neurobiological, developmental differences. Some are only in the timing of development, some are in structure and processing. To be sure, there are no claims or assumptions of superiority for either gender. However, unfortunately the easier and morally simpler assumption of androgyny is simple incorrect. Unfortunately, there will be no simple answers in the area of gender differentiation.

Lenroot et al. (2007) sum it up nicely: “Differences in brain size between males and females should not be interpreted as implying any sort of functional advantage or disadvantage. Size/function relationships are complicated by the inverted U shape of developmental trajectories and by the myriad factors contributing to structure size, including the number and size of neurons and glial cells, packing density, vascularity, and matrix composition. However, an understanding of the sexual dimorphism of brain development, and the factors that influence these trajectories, may have important implications for the field of developmental neuropsychiatry where nearly all of the disorders have different ages of onset, prevalence, and symptomatology between boys and girls” (Lenroot et al., 2007, p. 1072).

References

Bethus, I., Lemaire, V., Lhomme, M., & Goodall, G. (2005, March 30). Does prenatal stress affect latent inhibition? It depends on the gender. Behavioural Brain Research, 158(2), 331-338. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2004.09.013
Burman, D., Biten, T., & Booth, J. (2008, January 4). Sex differences in neural processing of language among children. Neuropsychologia, 46(5), 1349-1362 . doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.021 Retrieved from
Lenroot, R., Gogtay, N., Greenstein, D., Wells, E., Wallace, G., Clasen, L., Blumenthal, J., … Giedd, J. (2007, March 17). Sexual dimorphism of brain developmental trajectories during childhood and adolescence. NeuroImage, 36, 1065-1073. Retrieved from http://www.boysadrift.com/2007Giedd.pdf
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2010). Androgyny. Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/androgyny
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2010). Stereotype. Retrieved February 25, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype
Be sure to also check out Gender Stereotypes, Part Two and Gender Stereotypes, Part Three.


2 comments:

Craig said...

Thanks! I appreciate your kind words and I'm glad you enjoyed the posts!

Mobili

Craig said...

PS I loved the cartoon!

Mobili