Concepts of Gender Case Studies

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Seavey et al. (1975) - Baby X Study

Aim: Investigating whether the gender label attatched to a baby affected adult responses.

Method: A three-month old baby dressed in a yellow babysuit was labelled either male, female or not given a gender label to thirds of participants. Participants were left to interact with the child for three minutes. In the room were gender-stereotypical toys; a ball (male), a rag doll (female) and a plastic ring (neutral).

Results: When the baby was labelled female, the doll was chosen to play with the baby. When the baby was lebelled male, participants generally chose the gender-neutral toy. The neutral label saw women interact freely with the baby, whereas the men did not.

Conclusion: Adults will interact differently with infants depending on whether they believe they are male or female. 

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Urberg (1982) - Gender Stereotypes in Children

Aim: Investiagting the content of gnder stereotypes in children ages between 3 and 7 years.

Method: Children aged 3, 5 and 7 were told stories illustrating gender-stereotyped traits such as bravery and caring. E.g. 'Some people are brave. If a house was on fire they would go inside to rescue people.' The children were then shown pictures of weither a male or female. The researcher would then ask who the brave people are. 'Are they women, men, both women and men, or nobody?' Some stories used pictures of children too.

Results: All age groups chose according to cultural stereotypes. 5 years old were especially rigid in thier choices, whereas 7 year olds were more flexible with answers. Responses were more stereortypial when the pictures used were of children rather than adults.

Conclusion: Young children have clear expectations about the types of behaviours that are typical of each sex.

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Mead (1935) - Differences in Gender Roles

Aim: Investiagting whether they were differnece in gender roles across three different societies.

Method: For six months Mead lived and observed three seperate tribes in New Guinea. The Arapesh, Mundugamor and Tchambuli tribes. Behaviour from each sex were recorded.

Results: The Arapesh community showed stereotypically Western gender roles, and were gentle and cooperative. The Mundugamor society demonstrated stereotypically masculine traits in both sexes. The Tchambuli tribe showed a reversal of stereotypical Western gender roles.

Conclusion: Different cultures show differences in gender-related behaviour.

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Evaluation of Mead's Study

  • Arguably unscientific.
  • Previously had strong belifs about the environemnt shaping our gender behaviour, therefore cause researcher bias in her reuslts.
  • Errington and Gewertz (1989) revisited Tchambuli and conclused that there was no dominating sex.
  • Mead changed her views years later regarding cultural influiences, stating that women were 'naturally' better at childcare than men.
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