Gender socialization in the family

Open Access
Shearer, Cindy Lou
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 26, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Ann Caverly Crouter, Committee Chair
  • Susan Marie Mc Hale, Committee Member
  • Eva Sharon Lefkowitz, Committee Member
  • Michael Paul Johnson, Committee Member
  • Michael J Rovine, Committee Member
  • gender
  • parenting
  • bias
  • adolescence
  • emerging adulthood
  • socialization
The goal of this research was to examine gender socialization in the family, with particular attention paid to processes of gender socialization. The first two studies examined parents’ preparation for gender bias, a new construct which involves providing instruction about sexism and disadvantaged minority treatment of women. The first study explored parents’ preparation for gender bias in a sample of (N=190) European American two-parent families with two adolescent offspring. Mothers engaged in more preparation for gender bias than did fathers, and prepared daughters for gender bias more than sons. Preparing offspring for gender bias was associated with parents’ socioeconomic status, gender attitudes, and indices of parent-offspring relationship quality. Analyses aimed at exploring the implications of preparation for gender bias for offspring’s gender attitudes revealed that although preparation for gender bias did not mediate the association between parents’ and offspring’s attitudes, high levels of mothers’ preparation for gender bias were associated with less traditional attitudes toward women among offspring. The second study examined parents’ preparation for gender bias in a sample of (N = 167) two parent African American families and compared this process to preparation for racial bias by examining the correlates and within-family patterning of both socialization behaviors. Parents reported fairly low levels of preparation for gender bias, as compared with preparation for racial bias. Cluster analysis revealed four distinct patterns of mothers’ and fathers’ preparation for gender and racial bias, which were linked to offspring psychosocial adjustment. Taking into account the role of parental characteristics, belonging to families where both parents engaged in high levels of preparation for gender and racial bias was linked to greater expressivity, awareness of racism, positive values, and social competence among offspring. The third study described gender socialization in the family from the perspective of emerging adult offspring in an ethnically diverse sample of college students (N = 170). Perceptions of family gender messages and modes of message transmission were assessed with a series of open-ended questions, coded for content. General message about gendered work and family roles were most common, and varied in degree of traditionality. Respondents most commonly reported that they had perceived gender messages in their families through observation, although other processes were also identified. Family gender messages differed from peer, school, and media messages. Finally, conservatism in family and peer gender messages was associated with emerging adults’ gender attitudes. Limitations of this work and implications for future research on gender socialization in the family are discussed within each paper.