Gender and Family Structure as Related to Children's Perceptions of Parenting Roles
Nepper, Mary A.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
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This study was conducted to determine children's perceptions of parental roles in child rearing as related to gender of the child and the structure of the family (single parent or two parent) of which the child was a part. Subjects were 54 preschool children, aged three to five, enrolled in five child care programs in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Information was gathered through a two-part interview. Part I of the interview consisted of an open-ended question in which children were asked to describe what mothers and fathers do. The second part of the interview required that the child participate in a game using a series of line drawings of situations in which parents and children would be involved. The investigator showed a drawing and placed a paper doll of a boy or a girl in the picture. Children were then read a short description of the situation and were asked to place a paper doll of the parent appropriate to the task in the picture. Subjects were told that they could place the mother, the father or both parents in the picture. Analysis was done using chi-square to test for significant differences among groups. When data were analyzed according to gender some significant differences were found. Responses of girls tended to favor mother, but boys’ choices were more evenly distributed between mother and father. More differences were found when analyzing noninteractive activities. Analysis of the data revealed same gender orientation in interactive activities with boys choosing the father and girls choosing the mother. When analyzed according to family structure data indicated that children from two parent homes most often chose mother as appropriate for the task. Children from single parent homes were more likely to choose both mother and father at the same time. This finding was especially true for boys. Differences among the responses of girls were small. In all analyses girls tended to choose mother. There appeared to be a switch in perception across fanily structure with boys from single parent families favoring father and boys from two parent families favoring mother.