Gender Socialization in the Family


Families play a critical role in enhancing gender socialization process. It is the family through which children first learn of being male or female after birth. Its role in enhancing gender socialization is immense since the parents foster gender roles through a series of activities, opportunities, over behaviors, guidance, covert suggestions, and encouragements. The family, in particular through the parents treat male children in a different manner compared to females. The variation in treatment is gender biased, something that makes children realize their difference in gender, hence the gender roles. Furthermore, storytelling, which is common in families enhances the sharing of information with children. Some of this information is critical in informing children on what is expected of their gender. Moreover, parents teach gender roles through rewards or punishments of gender-specific behaviors. Furthermore, parents act as role models for their children to observe and mimic gender roles in addition to the assigning of gender-specific roles. The toys bought for children and the household chores significantly impact gender socialization process.


The roles of gender among children are a product of socialization and gender stereotyping. Hussain et al. reiterate that gender role formation and gender stereotyping are outcomes of gender socialization. The family plays a critical role in making their children learn and acquire gender-related sociocultural constructs. The family is the most important institution within the society with the greatest effect on gender socialization. This is because the family, especially parents teach and guide their children to conform to societal customs and norms concerning relevant behaviors, roles, and attitudes of each sex. Parents perform a fundamental role in gender specialization process because they form the immediate environment to their children. This research paper looks forward to explaining the family role on the progress of early childhood gender socialization, the ways parents teach gender roles, and how toys, as well as household chores, impact the process of socialization.

- +

Family Role on Early Childhood Gender Socialization

In the process of socialization, children get to understand whether they are boys or girls from their parents, something that gives them gender identity of being male or female. It is the family, especially the parents who inform their children gender roles through a myriad of activities, encouragements, opportunities, discouragements, covert suggestions, overt behavior, and many forms of guidance. The family influence makes it hard for children to grow into adults without having some gender bias on what is expected for boys and girls especially in behaviors and role performance.

Through parents, children learn gender-specific roles. Parents treat girls differently compared to boys. Such a thing can make girls know that they are different from boys, hence gender inculcation. Zosuls et al. reiterate that during the early years of childhood, parents treat girls and boys differently through the encouragement of activities, which are gender-stereotyped. Such a statement is true because once a child is born, parents buy clothes appropriate for the gender. For instance, baby boys are most likely to dress in shirts and trousers, which girls may not wear in some cultures. Through the different treatment of children in the home, the family plays a huge role in informing them the gender roles.

Furthermore, the family plays a huge role in the gender socialization process through sharing of thoughts with children. This utterance is in line with many scholars who have performed research studies to ascertain its validity. For example, Spjeldnes, Koeske, & Sales (2010) came to a conclusion that parents share their thoughts, behaviors, and experiences with their children in addition to providing useful resources to assist in gender-related development. Such a finding shows that parents and the family as a whole are impactful on gender development during childhood stage of an individual. The family socializes with children through storytelling, which is one of the dominant ways of family socialization. Some of the stories concern gender and gender roles. Hussain et al. say that families familiarize children with attributes and personal traits associated with both male and female gender through storytelling. In some cultures, fathers inform their male children appropriate stories of success, bravery, and achievement while mothers tell their daughters stories of expression, emotions, relationships, and support. Therefore, the family is a source of stories through which children receive information that cultivates their gender roles.

How Parents Teach Appropriate Gender Roles

Parents inculcate gender roles in their children through teachings. According to Carter, parents teach their children with discipline and rewards in addition to providing an environment that shapes gender attitudes and personality. Parents commence their teaching role shortly after the birth of their children. For instance, male children are kissed, stroked, and cuddled less than females. Instead, they are mostly tossed and handled roughly because the society expects them to be tough and aggressive. When playing with their children, parents praise and appreciate positive gender-related behavior while punishing inappropriate behaviors. that means that parents may praise girl children for specific behaviors and discourage or punish boys for the same behaviors. Its suggests that these parents want children to behave in agreement with a particular gender. For example, a mother may praise her girl child if she spends a whole day in the kitchen trying to cook and wash utensils while a boy may be punished for doing the same. Instead, the boy may be encouraged to go outside and perform male-related duties.

Parents also teach gender roles through spending time with their children and role modeling. In the process of socialization, children tend to observe and learn from their parents. A male child is likely to behave according to the way his father behaves while the female child may follow the suite of her mother. For example, I families that women do the domestic chores, girls will likely learn that the role of women is to perform domestic duties such as washing utensils and cooking. Such a thing will compel girls to behave like their mother and dream to become the best mother. Corno and Anderman explain that learning through role model and mimicking the behaviors and acts is one of the most efficient ways through which children can learn. It, therefore, mean that children acquire most of the gender roles through seeing and learning from practices and behaviors of their parents.

Storytelling is another way through which parents teach their children gender in addition to assigning children chores. Wang asserts that through storytelling, parents can inform their children gender appropriate societal expectations and virtues. Through storytelling, children can learn what the society expects both boys and girls to do. For instance, girls can gain an insight of what women should do for them to be accepted as females of value. This teaching from parents may be one of the best ways to support gender stereotypes. Furthermore, parents can directly teach their children through the assigning of chores and tasks. Once children learn the type of gender-related chores their parents perform, they may adopt the same. Sometimes, parents can assign them gender-specific roles. As a result, boys and girls may end up getting used to the gender-specific chores in their lives.

How Toys and Household Chores Impact Socialization Process

In many cultures, people perform different roles in respect to the cultural expectations of gender. Parents can reinforce this among their children by assigning gender-specific activities so that the children can grow knowing they are either male or female. Assigned household chores assigned impacts the gender socialization process. In a family sphere, parents divide activities between males and females. For instance, boys may be required to handle outdoor activities like a business, farming, and shopping among many others because of their energetic and masculine features. However, females may be assigned domestic chores that include sweeping, washing, cooking, and caring for the youngsters. Through this, children may end up learning the kind of roles they should perform in accordance to their gender.

Toys impact the process of gender socialization since boys and girls mostly receive those that are gender specific. In fact, the toys are like tools that mold children to uphold societal expectations of gender. Parents are likely to buy toy vehicles, sports equipment, and action figures for their sons. The African Development Bank found that more balls, Lego, and books are mostly bought for boys while girls are bought dolls. Also, girls are treated softly compared to boys who are treated roughly for the preparation of male roles in the society that require aggression. This is because females are most likely to possess more toys and presents from their parents than boys. However, daughters are more likely to be bought kitchen sets, dolls, and dress-up toys because these toys translate to the role of women in the family or the society as a whole. When playing using these toys, the children will be implementing appropriate gender roles at a young age, something the family prepares them to do once they grow into adulthood. Leaper et al. conclude that the family encourages girls to take an active role in participating in housekeeping duties while boys are motivated to play sports and other tasks the society expects men to perform. Therefore, toys play an essential role in the socialization process because they help shape the gender roles among children.


The family has an enormous role in the progress of early childhood gender socialization since parents teach gender roles, and the toys and household chores affect this socialization process. Through this process, children learn what is expected of them as either male or female. The role that families play in inculcating gender roles is immense. First, families are the first to make children know whether they are boys or girls. Families, especially parents treat children differently basing on gender, something that impacts gender roles. Furthermore, children receive information through storytelling that on what they should do as boys or girls. On the other hand, parents teach their children on gender roles in many ways. Some teach through disciplining and rewarding, storytelling, and assigning gender-specific activities. Parents can also teach their children through role modeling in which children learn and practice by observing and mimicking their behaviors and practices. Finally, toys and household chores impact the gender socialization process.