Sex Roles, Vol. 40, Nos. 3/ 4, 1999
Gender Differences in Emotional Language in
Children’s Picture Books
Clary A . Tepper
and Kimberly Wright Cassidy
Bryn Mawr College
Numerous examinations of children’s picture books ha
e found that they
are gender biased against females in term s of character pre
alence in titles,
pictures and central role, and in the type of acti
ities engaged in by characters.
This study examined a different potential area of gender stereotyping, gender
differences in emotional language. Books that were read to /by a sample
of primarily Caucasian preschool children during a one-week period were
examined for e
idence of stereotyping. Analysis of character pre
indicated that males had higher representation in titles, pictures and central
role. Contrary to expectation, males and females were associated with equal
amounts of emotional language. In addition, no differences were found in
the types of emotional words associated with males and females.
During the preschool years, children develop knowledge about gender-role
identity and gender stereotypes. By the age of thre e, children are able to
distinguish males from females, and by the age of ® ve, many children have
already formed strong gender stereotype s (Serbin, Powlishta & Gulko,
1993) . These gender stereotypes are constructe d, shaped and maintaine d
by societal values. Literature and storyte lling are key ways through which
children may learn societal values. Books may help provide the basic model
by which children form ideas about themselves as well as about other
people (Rachlin & Vogt, 1974). For many years, books have de® ned the
standards of masculine and feminine role development (Peterson & Lach,
This research was supported by a faculty grant from Bryn Mawr College to the second author.
The authors wish to thank the children, parents, and teachers at the Phebe Anna Thorne
School of Bryn Mawr, PA, Our Lady of Fatima of Secane, PA, and the Scooter School of
Chester, CT, for their participation in this project. They also wish to thank Leslie Rescorla
and Mary Rourke for their helpful comments on the manuscript.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at West House, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N.
Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010; e-mail: email@example.com
1999 P lenum Publishing Corporation