Effects of Children on Parental Sex-Role Orientation

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Conventionally, social scientists examine how parents create gender roles for children from birth through adolescence. Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman have found that children can also affect their parents’ gender roles. They administered the Bem Sex Role Inventory to 306 parents (153 couples) who had daughters only (N = 41), sons only (N = 41), or an equal number of sons and daughters (N = 71).

Fathers with sons had lower “femininity” scores than fathers with daughters only. Mothers with sons were significantly more “feminine” than those who only had daughters. These results do not support the “common sense” expectation that socializing daughters would have a feminizing effect on parents and that socializing sons would have a masculinizing effect.

Ganong and Coleman contend that parents become more sex-typed (that is, fathers become more masculine than feminine and mothers more feminine than masculine). Parents seem to respond to sons by becoming clearer role models of masculinity and femininity. Daughters, on the other hand, have no such effect because there is relatively less concern for teaching them a rigid gender role. The study supports yet another interactionist dimension to gender roles, that the child-parent relationship is mutually influential. See Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman, “Effects of Children on Parental Sex-Role Orientation,” Journal of Family Issues 8 (September 1987): 278–290.

Respond to the article above written by Jon Witt with 200 words and respond to two other students’ posts with 100 words each. Do you agree or disagree? What does the text tell you about gender roles?

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