Media Influences on Gender-Role Development

One activity that is consistently popular with students is to have them explore a variety of media for views of sex-role development, gender identity, and the portrayal of gender stereotypes. Books (including children's books as well as books aimed at parents), movies, videos, newspapers, magazines (including children's magazines), and advertisements are all suitable subjects for analysis. After gathering a variety of sources, students should write a short paper applying principles from the text and lecture to their examples. What common themes or stereotypes are found throughout? Are there many instances of sex-typed behavior? Are there certain kinds of media that break stereotypic portrayals? What influence will these portrayals likely have on the development of gender identity and gender role awareness in children? If available, it might be particularly instructive to compare older media sources (e.g., magazines or books that are 10-15 years old) with current ones. Which stereotypes seem to be firmly rooted in our culture and resistant to change? In what ways have stereotypes changed in the past decade? Because television is such an influential medium, particularly with respect to children, your students might also consider gender portrayals in various types of programming, comparing and contrasting children's educational shows (e.g., Barney, Sesame Street), cartoons (e.g., Animaniacs), action shows (e.g., Power Rangers), and situation comedies (e.g., Full House). Students' papers can also form the basis for a lively class discussion on this important topic.

Adapted from Siaw, S., & Clark, M. (1995). Instructor's resource guide to accompany Child psychology: The modern science (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.