Joint Paper Session NW 08 and NW 33
Even though children witness increasing numbers of men and women holding jobs and engaging in household tasks that are gender non-confirming in today’s world, there are still many indicators of gender roles and signs of gender boundaries children are exposed to. Specifically, in more traditional societies such as Turkey, not only are there higher expectations for males and females to confirm to culturally accepted gender roles, there is also a greater expectation for each gender to dress within the traditionally accepted boundaries. Additionally, in Turkey, majority of the population is Muslim and with the influence of current politics, religious expectations, especially on women, are articulated more in daily life. Even though Islam requires men and women to dress differently and women to cover themselves, not only is Turkey a secular country, but also there had been a ban on women wearing headscarves in any of the state jobs including teaching or medicine until the year 2013. Thus, prior to 2013, women with headscarves were less visible in public. Since 2013, however children see both women with and without headscarves as teachers, as doctors and pretty much in any jobs. Now in Turkey, although there are very few women wearing burka, there is a significant number of women who cover their heads and there is also a large number of women who do not cover their heads and wear clothes like their counterparts in the Western world. This then presents children women with two very different appearances. It is thus possible that in cultures where there is more culturally mixed populations, gender role expectations become more complex for children. Cognitive theories of gender development suggest that children are active agents in forming their perceptions of the social world and attaching meanings to these perceptions (Martin & Ruble, 2004). Not only do children search for meaningful patterns to organize their social world, they actively develop expectations for people to behave in certain ways, engage in certain activities and even have specific capabilities. Children develop strict gender stereotypes and expectations for males and females to have certain behaviors based on their gender by the time they are five years old often informed by superficial qualities such as clothing and hair style. Aina and Cameron (2011) indicated that gender stereotypes are developed by 5 years of age and become rigidly defined between 5 and 7 years of age, making the preschool years a critical period to deal with gender stereotypes. Cognitive theories of gender development suggest that flexibility in their expectations do not emerge for several years following this rigid period experienced around the age of five (Martin & Ruble, 2004).
As the children understand they belong a a certain gender category, they begin to make choices according to their gender role understanding. Both identifying with a group and understanding the differences between femininity and masculinity result in with gender segregation. Perry, Davis-Blake and Kulik (1994) suggest that gender segregation is at least partially the result of many individual gender-based selection decisions.
The fact that some women in Turkey wear headscarves complicates simple categorizations of males and females as two distinct groups. It is then possible for young children between the ages three and six to have some flexibility in their thinking and hold different types of expectations for males, females with headscarves and females without headscarves.
Using the same procedure, this study is designed as a follow up to two studies conducted by Metindogan (2012; 2014) that examined young children’s (ages between 3 and 7) perceptions of male and female gender roles for adults as a function of headscarf and child sex.
Using an experimental methodology, young children were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions and watched a video showing an adult reading a gender neutral children's book. After the video, children were interviewed and asked a series of questions about jobs, household tasks and personality characteristics. In order to examine young children’s perceptions of male and female stereotypes, a modified version of Bem’s sex role inventory was used. Feminine and masculine items that are culturally relevant within the Turkish culture were identified by college student ratings. In addition, some personality traits that were identified as age appropriate for young children to understand and use by preschool teachers were also included in the study. One hundred eighty-nine young children with an average age of 5 years were randomly placed into one of three groups. Each of these groups of young children watched either a videotaped young adult male, or a young adult female with a headscarf, or the same female without a headscarf read a gender neutral children’s picture book. After children were exposed to one of these three videos, children were asked to keep the person in the video in mind and answer a series of questions. Each of these questions asked how the person in the video would perform a specific task.
Preliminary analyses of ANOVA results showed that there was a main effect of type of video children watched both for household tasks and occupations. However, the differences were visible between females with or without headscarves and the male character only. The interaction effects between children’s sex and the type of video they were exposed to was found for both feminine and masculine feminine household tasks. Findings suggested that although both male and female children agreed that males were more masculine and less feminine, they had opposing views regarding who was more masculine and feminine based on the headscarf. While male children saw the females with headscarf to be more similar to males; female children on the other hand saw the females with the headscarf to be least masculine followed by females without headscarves and males. These findings suggest that children do categorize the world based on gender, and it can be more fluid. Children look for cues within the culture to define what each gender category is like, and they can also create subcategories within each gender. The findings will be compared to the findings of the original study, before the headscarf ban was removed, and the other one, soon after the ban was removed to discuss the dynamics of change in children's gender role stereotypes.
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