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Parents’ Gender Roles and Children’s Aspirations


The article in question dwells upon the development of stereotypes in children and adolescents. Croft, Schmader, Block and Baron (2014) state that parents inflict their implicit and explicit beliefs concerning gender roles on their children. Croft et al. (2014) utilize the social role theory as a theoretical framework for their research (among other theories). According to this theory, roles in the society are distributed on the basis of a number of stereotypes concerning sex differences (Eagly, 2013). Eagly (2013) claims that men are often attributed features that manifest agency (assertiveness and independence). Whereas, females are attributed communal features (friendliness, selflessness, and expressiveness). These psychological and physical traits are seen as appropriate features for accomplishing particular roles in the society.

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Gender stereotypes

Croft et al. (2014) use this theory in a number of ways. First, the researchers acknowledge the existence of stereotypes and their influence on the disproportionate distribution of social roles. Croft et al. (2014) try to check whether the stereotypes mentioned earlier are transferred from parents to children and depend on the way parents see gender roles. The researchers also explain one of their findings concerning the limited impact fathers’ behaviors and beliefs have on their sons’ behaviors and beliefs.

Croft et al. (2014, p. 9) state that “stereotypes governing men’s behavior are more rigid than those for women” and this results in their reluctance to adopt more egalitarian ways even if their fathers exhibit the corresponding behavior. It is possible to note that the social role theory predicts that the stereotypes will persist due to the beliefs concerning feminine and masculine traits. In the part concerning boys’ assumptions, the theory has proved to be correct while the development of girls’ assumptions tends to be more flexible and dependent on their fathers’ views.

The social role theory can also be employed in future studies concerning gender stereotypes and families. It can be beneficial to assess the degree to which parents’ behaviors, as well as explicit and implicit beliefs, affect their children as regards single-parent families. In these families, the parent often has to balance household duties, childcare and job(s).

Children do not see a particular distribution of gender roles in their families, which means that they are likely to adopt beliefs persistent in the society. Such predictions are consistent with the social role theory. The theory can also be the grounding for the research that looks into the way external factors (school, community) and internal factors (family) influence the development of gender stereotypes. According to the theory of social role, external factors such as societal norms (predetermined historically) will be more powerful than the internal factors (family).


Research with scientific merit contributes to theories and vice versa. Ellemers (2013) states that many studies can be seen as rather unfocused and less relevant as they do not use solid theoretical frameworks, but try to look into issues that are in the spotlight. However, empirical studies with scientific merit contribute to the development of theories as well. Thus, empirical research may refute a theory or unveil flaws in the methodology or theory itself. The present study is consistent with the theory and can be regarded as a particular case. The family is a small unit and the basis of the society where certain stereotypes persist. It is clear that the social roles theory is still relevant especially when it comes to the Western society, which is still patriarchal.


Croft, A., Schmader, T., Block, K., & Baron, A.S. (2014). The second shift reflected in the second generation: Do parents’ gender roles at home predict children’s aspirations? Psychological Science, 1-14. Web.

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Eagly, A.H. (2013). Sex differences in social behavior: A social-role interpretation. Hillsdale, NJ: Psychology Press.

Ellemers, N. (2013). Connecting the dots: Mobilizing theory to reveal the big picture in social psychology (and why we should do this). European Journal of Social Psychology, 43(1), 1-8.

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