Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Cultural sex-role expectations and children's sex-role concepts

  • 120 Accesses

  • 13 Citations


Middle-class children between the ages of 4 and 8 were interviewed about their sex-role attitudes, in order to determine the extent to which recently changing cultural mores have influenced children's sex-role concepts. The children were asked about their career goals; the careers they would choose if they were the opposite sex; the reasons why they like being a boy or girl; and their opinions regarding the appropriateness of men and women participating in 14 sex-stereotypic occupations and activities. The children's parents provided demographic information. The children expressed very nonstereotypic attitudes towards the 14 occupations and activities, compared to children in recent studies; but they chose very traditional careers for their own choices and opposite-sex career choices, and often gave stereotypic reasons for preferring their own sex. Parents' education, mothers' employment status, fathers' nontraditional careers, and the children's gender predict responses to several of the sex-role-related questions. Implications for research are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Almquist, E. A., & Angrist, S. S. Career salience and atypicality of occupational choice among college women. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1970, 32, 242–249.

  2. Bandura, A., & Walters, R. H. Social learning and personality development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963.

  3. Beuf, A. Doctor, lawyer, household drudge. Journal of Communication, 1974, 24, 142–145.

  4. Garfinkle, S. H. Occupations of women and black workers, 1962–74. Monthly Labor Review, 1975, 98, 25–34.

  5. Katz, P. A. The development of female identity. Sex Roles, 1979, 5, 155–177.

  6. Kohlberg, L. A cognitive developmental analysis of children's sex-role concepts and attitudes. In E. E. Maccoby (Ed.), The development of sex differences. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966.

  7. Lipman-Blumen, J. How ideology shapes women's lives. Scientific American, 1972, 226, 34–42.

  8. Looft, W. R. Sex differences in the expression of vocational aspirations by elementary school children. Developmental Psychology, 1971, 5, 366.

  9. McNeil, J. C. Feminism, femininity, and the television series: A content analysis. Journal of Broadcasting, 1975, 19, 259–271.

  10. Miller, S. M. Effects of maternal employment on sex-role perception, interests, and self-esteem in kindergarten girls. Developmental Psychology, 1975, 11, 405–406.

  11. Scheresky, R. The gender factor in six- to ten-year-old children's views of occupational roles. Psychological Reports, 1976, 38, 1207–1210.

  12. Schlossberg, N. K., & Goodman, J. A woman's place: Children's sex stereotyping of occupations. Vocational Guidance Quarterly, 1972, 20, 266–270.

  13. Shepherd, W. O., & Hess, D. T. Attitudes in four age groups toward sex role division in adult occupations and activities. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1975, 6, 27–39.

  14. Tangri, S. S. Occupational aspirations and experiences of college women. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service no. ED 060 470), 1971.

  15. Vogel, S. R., Broverman, I. K., Broverman, D. M., Clarkson, F., & Rosenkrantz, P. Maternal employment and perceptions of sex roles among college students. Developmental Psychology, 1970, 3, 384–391.

  16. Williams, J. E., Bennett, S. M., & Best, D. L. Awareness and expression of sex stereotypes in young children. Developmental Psychology, 1975, 11, 635–642.

  17. Zalk, S. R., & Katz, P. A. Gender attitudes in children. Sex Roles, 1978, 4, 349–357.

  18. Zuckerman, D. M. Family background, sex-role attitudes, and life goals of technical college and university students. Sex Roles, 1981, 7, 1109–1126.

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Zuckerman, D.M., Sayre, D.H. Cultural sex-role expectations and children's sex-role concepts. Sex Roles 8, 853–862 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287855

Download citation


  • Social Psychology
  • Employment Status
  • Demographic Information
  • Career Choice
  • Career Goal