Do Mothers And Fathers Typical Essay, Research Paper
Do Mothers and Fathers typically seek to socialize children into conventional masculinity and femininity?
Whether you are born male or female will be of major consequence for all aspects of your life: for the expectations others in society will have of you, for your treatment by other people and for your own behavior. This is true no matter what society someone is born into, although the consequences will vary from society to society. Virtually all societies are organized on the basis of gender differences between men and women. It is generally accepted that boys and girls are socialized differently in our culture. Perhaps parents are consciously aware of their molding of the child to meet specific sex role standards and much of the differential treatment handed out is a reflection of the adults own life history, their firm sex role socialization dimming awareness of its generation replication. While biological evidence contributes to our understanding of the origins of gender differences, another route to take is the study of gender socialization, the learning of gender roles through social factors such as the family.
Medical technology like an ultrasound enables the identification of sexual difference even before birth . When the sex of the fetus is known the construction of such a difference is extended to life in the womb. Parents can then actively construct the fetus as a gender identity. This occurs through choosing gender appropriate names, discussing and purchasing gender appropriate clothing (such as pink clothes for girl babies) and by ascribing specific attributes (such as tiny baby girl ) to the fetus according to the sex. Knowledge of the sex of a fetus therefore extends possibilities for the ways in which mothers and fathers begin constructing gender realities about their offspring.
Luria and Rubin (1973) have shown that stereotypes even influence adults perceptions of newborn babies. When viewed for the first time in the hospital, infants known to be boys are seen as robust, strong and large featured whilst those perceived to be girls are delicate, fine featured and soft , even when there is little basis for the observations.
There are practically no firm sex differences that regularly show up in infants before the ages of two. Anneliese Korner has found boys to be somewhat larger at birth than girls. Moreover there is tentative evidence that boys are somewhat stronger and more vigorous than are girls, whereas girls seem to be a bit more sensitive to physical stimulation, partially around the mouth, than boys are.
Research show that from birth, mothers treat boy babies quite differently from girl babies. Infant girls are talked to and gazed at significantly more than boys, whereas infant boys are held more than girls. Micheal Lewis has summed up the major differences as being the mother s propensity to offer boys more close stimulation and offer girls more distant stimulation. Wherever the same is true of fathers, or if they treat girls and boys in opposite manner is not clear from research.
Many studies have been carried out on the degree to which gender differences are the result of social influences. Studies of mother-infant interaction show differences in the treatment of boys and girls even when parents believe their reactions to both are the same. Adults asked to assess the personality of a baby give different answers according to whether or not they believe the baby to be a girl or a boy. In one classic experiment, five young mothers were observed in interaction with a six-month-old called Beth. They tended to smile at her often and offer her dolls to play with. She was seen as sweet, having a soft cry . The reaction of the second group of mothers to a child the same age, named Adam, was noticeably different. The baby was likely to be offered a train or other male toys to play with. Beth and Adam was actually the same child, dressed in different clothes. (will et al. 1976)
As the babies got older, mother made less of an effort to soothe the males. Moss (1970) sees this as the initiation of a pattern in keeping with cultural expectations according to which males are seen as more assertive and less responsive than females . Murphy (1962) found that mother appeared to treat male children with respect for their independence, when babies this meant following the babies own rhythm and adopting a come and get it approach. Girls were more fussed over than boys were. Hartley (1966) found that mothers were much more pre-occupied with girls appearance than with boys appearance . This led to girls being dressed in feminine clothes and to frequent references to their appearance.
Sears, Maccoby and Lvin (1967) found that American mothers distinguished between the kind of household chores assigned to boys and girls even at five years . Girls work was washing up, bedmaking and laying the table; boys work was emptying rubbish, ashtrays and wastebaskets. Parents were largely unconscious of the fact that this might produce gender-typed behavior of male and female and was seen as natural rather than as the product of learning. .
The process of learning appropriate sex behavior is usually facilitated or retarded by the parents who act of role models. This factor has been primarily studied with children who have a father absent rather than in families where the mother is absent. Most of the research has been done on the influence of the father absence from the home, and little is known about the effects of mothers absence. In general, it has been found that father absence from the home has a disadvantage effect on the boys. The disadvantage effect of father absence is moderated by the time of absence. If the father is present until the boy is five, the effect of the later absence appears to be minimal (Hetherington, 1966). The fact that father absence influences the development if male children indicate that the effects of modeling are crucial in sex typing. If the father is not present in the home, both male and female personality development are likely to be characterized by increased femininity. Thus the father helps in producing masculine behavior in the home.
One case that gives conclusive proof of the over-riding influence of parents socializing their children in conventional roles of masculinity and femininity was researched by Money. Identical twins derive from a single egg and have exactly the same genetic make up. Money (1974) researched a case of a pair of identical twins, one of whom lost his penis in a circumcision accident at the age of seven months . With medical advice this child was raised as a girl. First only the child s name, hairdo, clothing and toys were changed. At the end of the second year, surgical steps were taken to continue this transition female structure and hormonal treatment was taken. When this sex assignment was made the parents began thinking of the child as a girl and treating her so. The mother thought it was amusing for the boy to urinate outside but took a much different attitude with the girl did, insisting she should come inside and be more modest. By the age of four, the little girl was taken pride in her appearance, yet her brother did not show this and did not mind getting dirty. The little girl enjoyed playing with other little girls, helping with the housework and wanted to get married when she grew up. The boy preferred the company of boys; his favorite toys were cars and trucks and wanted to be a fireman or policeman. The parents treated both the children differently, even though they were technically the same. This shows how parents do seek to socialize children into their gender roles, even if they are doing it unconsciously.
Parents provide distinctive environments for boys and girls. They give them different toys and clothes and decorate their rooms differently (Rheingold and Cook, 1975) . They respond negatively to more obvious forms of cross-sex behavior. A very young boy who tries on his mother high-heeled shoes or puts on a dress or lipstick may be regarded with amused tolerance, but such behavior in older children is regarded as outrageous rather than funny . Father reacts especially strongly to any such signs of feminine tendencies in their sons.
A father who was asked whether he would be upset by signs of femininity in his son said:
Yes, I would be. Very, very much. Terrifically disturbed- couldn t tell you the extent of my disturbance. I can t bear female characteristics in a man. I adhor them (E. Goodenough, 1957).
The men may interpret certain kinds of feminine interests or actions as signs of developing homosexual tendencies in their sons and react to their tendencies in the strongest terms .
Little girls are allowed more latitude for cross-sex interest and play, but they too are pressured to behave in sex-appropriate ways, again primarily by their father. Many fathers react warmly to signs of femininity in their daughters: They like to see them dressed neatly in dresses and hair ribbons; they protest if their wives want to cut the girls long hair. Recent studies by Lanflois and Downs confirm the crucial role of their fathers in exerting pressure for sex appropriate behavior .
The importance of father in the development of the child s sex-typed behavior is further underscored by Hetherington s (1967) studies of the relationship between parent s attitudes and attributes and children characteristics. She found that preschool and kindergarten girls were most stereotypically feminine had fathers who were warm and assertive, liked women and approved of feminine behavior in their daughters. Boys who were the most highly sexed had fathers who were dominant. Thus, the fathers attitudes and behavior had an effect on the degree of sex typing in both boys and girls, although each sex was influenced differently. The mothers attitudes and behavior showed little relationship to sex typing in children of either sex.
Vanda Lucia Zammuner studied the toy preferences of children aged between seven and ten in Italy and Holland (1987). Children s attitudes towards a variety of to were analysis; stereotypically masculine and feminine toys as well as toys presumed not be sex-typed were included. Both the children and their parents were asked to assess which toys were suitable for boys and which for girls. They were close agreement between the adults and children. On average the Italian children chose sex-differentiated toys to plat with more often than the Dutch children- a finding that conformed to expectation since the Italian culture tends to hold a more traditional view of gender division than the Dutch do . This shows that different cultures hold different views of masculinity and femininity and the Dutch culture has slightly more modern view of gender roles.
Oakley (1981) writes that gender differences are probably much more important than class differences in determining what toys children are given . In Britain girls are not usually given guns or soldiers to play with and boys are not offered dolls or dolls houses. Goodman (1972) found in an American study that children under two were given very similar presents, for example cuddly toys, building blocks and rattles, but from then on gender appropriate toys were chosen . Goodman found that more time was spent choosing presents for boys More money was spent on boy s toys and they were likely to receive toys and games whereas girls were given clothes or furniture. Girl toys prepare them for motherhood and domesticity, while boy s toys offer fantasy, excitement and intellectual stimulus. Even toys give parents a chance to socialize children into conventional masculinity and femininity.
The social assignment plays a powerful role in a child s sexual identity, yet the importance of biology can not be ignored. This is the cue that leads to the assignment of their social sex, so the two are almost always related. Thus parents are not the only factor that has to be taken into account as biological, peers, teachers and general society all play a role in socializing children into conventional forms of masculinity and femininity. .
Sex role stereotypes are conventional images of gender. Such role stereotypes control our exceptions of other men and women, with particular respect to their behavior, their interests, their occupations and their psychosocial characteristics. At the same time, each person attempts to fit in to these cultural expectations themselves in the way they behave.
In the future we are trying to break away from these conventional roles, but there is great difficulty in non-sexist child rearing, as society expects individuals to act like females and males .
Mothers and fathers do not socialize children into such tight gender roles as they did in the past, but the straight jacket of our gender in still the most important factor when we socialize and work in society. Mothers and fathers want the best of their children and if this means socializing them into conventional roles so they do not stick out , they will.