First Advisor

Kathryn A. Farr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Infant psychology -- Social aspects, Stereotypes (Social psychology), Newborn infants -- Family relationships, Parent and infant



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, iv, 94 p.)


Parents are the first source of a child's learning of her or his gender. In fact, sex-role stereotyping of infants by parents may occur within the first 24 hours of birth. This study examined the nature of parental stereotyping on the basis of their infant's sex by obtaining parents' descriptions of their newborn and toy and clothing preferences for their newborn. In 1974, Rubin found that parents responded stereotypically to their infants on the basis of sex. Following Rubin's interview approach, 50 parent pairs from two urban hospitals were asked to participate in a parent-infant study and were subsequently interviewed 24 hours postpartum. Parents were asked open-ended descriptive questions about their newborn, given a semantic differential scale of 18 bi-polar objectives, asked about the importance of others recognizing their baby's sex, and asked a set of questions relating to the preference of clothing and toy choices for their newborn. Findings suggest that parents do stereotype their infants on the basis of biological sex. Sons were more likely to be described as strong, perfect, big or big-featured and energetic,--while daughters received more descriptions that mentioned their eyes, skin, or facial features and were also more likely to be described as small, tiny, or weak. Parents of boys were also more likely to state a preference for gender-specific toys and clothing. Infant sex did not make a notable difference on the importance that parents attributed to others recognizing their baby's sex. Fathers were more likely to perceive and describe their daughters more stereotypically than were mothers of either daughters or sons. Further studies to investigate gender stereotyping and its consequences as well as the interplay between the macro and micro levels of gender relations in society are suggested.


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