Oct 9, 2023

Effects of Gender Stereotypes on Emotional Development

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
Effects of Gender Stereotypes on Emotional Development

Gender stereotypes are deep-rooted beliefs and expectations about the roles and characteristics of men and women in our society. These stereotypes can significantly impact an individual's development and contribute to social inequalities. In addition, gender stereotypes in parenthood can have long-term effects on a child's social and emotional development.

When parents stick to traditional gender stereotypes, they limit their children's freedom to explore their personalities and interests. For example, parents may have different expectations for boys and girls, leading to different ways of communicating and activities. 

For example, boys are often encouraged to engage in sports, video games, and rough play. At the same time, girls are expected to play with dolls, engage in domestic activities, and develop emotional intelligence.

Children raised under gender stereotypes can develop distorted perceptions of themselves, the opposite sex, and others who do not conform to conventional gender roles. This can lead to severe emotional distress, low self-esteem, and discriminatory behaviours towards others. Studies have shown that children who grow up in a home environment with rigid gender roles are more likely to exhibit signs of anxiety, depression, and low self-worth.

Ultimately, gender stereotypes in parenthood can significantly impact a child's psychological well-being and development. To create a safe and positive environment for their children, parents should model gender equality, practice open communication, and encourage their children to explore their own interests and personalities. 

How do gender stereotypes affect children's development?

Limited developmental skills.

The way children play is a hugely important part of development. It's how children first develop skills and interests. For example, blocks encourage building and motor skills. In contrast, dolls can encourage role-playing, emotional intelligence and developing a caregiving attitude. 

So for our children to grow skills in all areas of development, a range of play experiences is essential. For instance, if only one type of skill-building toy is directed towards a specific group of people, only half of them will develop a specific set of skills or interests.

Language has a significant impact on children's development. 

Studies have found that girls tend to speak earlier than boys. This finding could be attributed to the fact that parents tend to talk more to their baby girls than to baby boys. Instead, boys are encouraged to be fierce and physical. As a result, girls develop their language skills earlier than boys reinforcing this stereotype that girls are more talkative, sociable and emotional than boys.

We can help our boys develop strong communication and social skills by breaking gender stereotypes and encouraging them to be as talkative, sociable, and emotional as their girl peers.

Limited self-expression

Children are constantly exploring their sense of self and figuring out who they are, almost like little detectives. They learn about themselves and which category they fit into by observing those around them. Once they understand their gender, they will naturally gravitate towards the categories assigned to them since birth.

As a result, children may feel trapped by societal norms, limiting their self-expression and self-discovery. For example, girls might prefer pink things. At the same time, boys tend to avoid them, or a girl might see construction toys as boys' toys, limiting their play opportunities and learning only a set of skills. 

Restrictions on social connections

When children adhere to gender stereotypes, it may prevent them from developing positive and genuine relationships with individuals of different genders and backgrounds. 

When children are encouraged to behave in stereotypical gender roles, they may experience difficulties connecting with others who do not conform to these roles. This can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion, which can cause long-term emotional damage.

To promote empathy and understanding towards others, it's essential to encourage children to interact and play with those of the opposite gender. If children only play with those of the same gender, they miss out on the chance to become familiar with those different from them.

Inability to express emotions

Unintentionally, some parents may talk more about emotions with their daughters than their sons, reinforcing gender stereotypes. However, children of all genders must explore and understand their feelings to develop emotional intelligence and learn how to manage them effectively. This stereotype can hinder children's emotional growth, self-regulation, and ability to manage their feelings. Consequently, girls are often perceived as emotional. At the same time, boys may struggle to express their emotions, leading to behavioural issues in the future.

Self-concept and body image

When boys are taught to suppress their emotions, they may feel insecure and have negative thoughts about their bodies as they try to meet the expectations of traditional masculinity. At the same time, girls who are told to value their looks above everything else may develop dangerous eating disorders and distorted perceptions of their bodies.

Internalised stereotypes

When we promote gender stereotypes in our parenting, we embed these perceptions in our children; by doing so, our children learn to follow these "social norms" and take these stereotypes into adulthood, thinking that there are certain things they cannot do as a woman or as a man, stopping growth and development.

When girls are taught to prioritise caring for others over pursuing their ambitions, it can lead to self-doubt and anxiety as they try to balance their desires with societal expectations. Parents must understand that traditional gender roles are not absolute and that their children can achieve anything regardless of gender.

 Limitations on professional opportunities

Girls and boys face limitations in their education and career opportunities due to gender stereotypes. These stereotypes restrict their ability to express themselves and explore all potential career paths freely. Even if they are passionate about a particular job, they may feel discouraged if it is traditionally associated with the opposite gender. This can hinder their personal growth, development, and potential for a satisfying career and life.


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