Sex Roles, Vol. 42, Nos. 11/12, 2000
Gender-Role Cognition in Three-Year-Old Boys
Vicki Peyton, Rashmita Mistry,
Anne Jacobs, Yvonne Caldera,
and Carolyn Roy
University of Kansas
Although the multidimensionality of gender roles has been well established,
few researchers haveinvestigated male and female roles separately. Because
of the substantial differences in the ways male and female roles are portrayed
in our culture, boys and girls may think and learn about these roles differently.
The male role is more clearly deﬁned, more highly valued, and more salient
than the female role; thus, children’s cognitions about these two roles may
be expected to differ. The present study addressed the question of whether
there is sex-typical variation in gender labeling, gender-role knowledge, and
schematicity. Participants were 120 families; 15% were from minority ethnic
groups, and 17% were single-parent families; 25% of the parents had a high
school education or less. Results indicated that at 36 months of age, boys
were less able to label gender and less knowledgeable about gender roles than
were girls. Boys’ knew more about male stereotypes than female stereotypes,
whereas girls knew considerably more than boys about the female role and
as much as boys about the male role. Boys and girls were found to be similar
in gender schematicity. Traditionality of parental attitudes regarding child-
rearing and maternal employment were not strongly related to children’s
Recent reviews of the literature regarding children’s understanding and
adoption of gender roles have acknowledged the multidimensional nature
Now at the University of North Carolina Center for Developmental Science.
Now at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Now at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
Now at the University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at the Department of Human Development
and Family Life, 4001 Dole Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66045; e-mail:
0360-0025/00/0600-1007$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation