Parents, Siblings and Peers Influence Young Peoples’ Attitudes toward Gender

Penn State University researchers tracked young people’s attitudes toward gender over a twelve-year span of time. They found a child’s gender, age, birth order, and parents’ attitudes influence what a child believes about gender roles.

For example, first-born boys with brothers and traditional parents had the most traditional views to begin with and kept them over time. However, second-born children tended to become less traditional in middle school and yet ended up endorsing more traditional attitudes about age 15.

The researchers concluded that gender attitudes take shape over a long period during childhood and adolescence, and that children form their attitudes from parents and siblings as well as peers. Children who were not the eldest in their families tended to be more influenced by peers.

The researchers led by Dr. Ann Crouter interviewed 201 families and their children from ages 7 to 19 years. They determined gender attitudes by asking questions such as “Should sons be given more help to go to college than daughters?” or “Should fathers have more authority than mothers in making decisions about raising children?”

The study appears in the journal Child Development.