The issue of emergence and perpetuation of gender stereotypes in recent years is one of the fundamental directions of research in social and human sciences. Various factors such as family, school, teachers, textbooks, children’s books, media etc. are increasingly more closely studied to identify the role they play in conveying gender stereotypes from generation to generation. Given that society is constantly, we have come to realize that we can not reach the optimal development unless the conditions in which each of its members manages to reach the potential with which she/he was endowed — which can only happen in terms of ensuring a development free of impediments raised by any prejudices.
Increasingly more women tend to occupy important positions in the professions they serve, while being devoted wives and mothers, more and more dads are starting to realize their role is not limited to bringing the necessary funds for decent living conditions, but also involve parental responsibilities, which they successfully perform. However, there are still plenty situations in which a woman’s place is perceived to be in the kitchen, while a man who is attentive to the needs of his family is ridiculed of not being manly enough.
It is not surprising, under these circumstances, that the specialists are focused more on identifying those factors that promote and perpetuate these gender stereotypes, with numerous studies focusing precisely on this issue. Researchers in the field of gender in childhood are particularly interested in the role of peer groups in the stereotyping by gender in childhood, promoting the perspective according to which children are active agents and not passive recipients of adult influence [5, p. 150 ].
Judith Langlois and Chris Downs have verified in a study conducted in 1980 offered rewards and punishments from parents and classmates for the expression by children aged 3-5 of gender behaviors through a laboratory experiment that mimics their natural playground context. The experiment results indicated an important role held by the group of friends in gender-role acquisition rules and preferences for activities, games and friendships [7, p. 1246-1247].
Evelyn Pitcher and Lynn Hickey Schultz point out, in their own research, the importance of friends and classmates in the acquisition of gender norms, their recommendation is that education in this area should start as late as possible, after preschool, if possible is should be entirely avoided. The two authors conclude that gender differences are developed in early childhood and are reinforced by peer group interactions and exclusive playtime with children of the same sex [10, p. 113].
Following a longitudinal study, conducted over two years on a sample of Chinese children with an average aged 11, Xinyin Chen, Yunfeng He, Lei Chang and Hongyun Liu (2005) identified an extremely important role of the group of friends. The study revealed a considerable influence of friends on the child, namely, a cooperative and prosocial group is supportive of the parental assistance of the family towards the child’s social development and general skills, while a group of antisocial, destructive friends disturb the positive parental influence, proving to be particularly important in the child’s development [2, p. 417].
In their research, Phyllis A. Katz and Sally Boswell (1986), discovered after a study involving 156 preschoolers, 220 pupils in the 3rd grade, 221 mothers and 137 fathers, a considerable influence of the group of friends when it comes to the gender preferences exhibited by children [6, p. 103].
Margaret A. Eisenhart and Dorothy C. Holland (1983) have investigated gender issues in the case of 4th and 7th grade pupils, and concluded that peer groups hold a distinct role, extremely important, to the reproduction of gender representation in society and their trans-generation perpetuation. Following their 1983 study, they found a significant influence of the group both within the school and outside, with a difference in meaning within the two types of circumstances. Thus, while outside school the group pressure is felt towards a compliance with gender norms promoted by society within the school area the group of friends promote norms and values contrary to those proposed by adults [4, p. 321].
The research conducted in 1999 by Carol Lynn Martin, Richard A. Fabes, Stephanie M. Evans and Heidi Wyman on 184 preschool children (92 girls and 92 boys) showed a high tendency of the children to play especially with children of the same sex, which increases together with age, in as much as the children’s social cognition in this area has followed the same direction. In addition, the children felt that others would have a greater feeling of approval on their decision to play especially with peers of the same sex, the conclusion of researchers being that the basis of gender segregation is likely to reflect the social cognition that preschoolers possess [8, p. 751-752].
Moreover, the research tends to indicate that, from the age of 3, children begin to prefer the company of friends of the same sex, especially in large groups of preschoolers of about the same age, with girls reaching this stage even earlier than boys. Under these circumstances, the styles of play specific to each sex will internalize even more, boys monopolizing a greater area of play space, playing more aggressively and preferring direct commands and strategies, while girls choose a more quiet game using mainly language as a means of networking [3, p. 809].
An important area of gender education in peer-groups is the education of emotional self-control, as indicated by the research conducted in 1996 by Janice Zeman and Judy Garber, who examined in a study involving 32 boys and 32 girls in 1st, 3rd and 5th grades, the factors to influence children’s decisions to control or express their emotions. The research revealed a more pronounced tendency of emotional self-control in the presence of peers, the main reason being the fear of a backlash in terms of interpersonal interaction. In addition, there were differences depending on the age and gender of the children, with younger children expressing sadness and anger in a more significant extent than those older, and also girls more than boys.
If boys are discouraged from expressing feelings of sadness or depression, the same cannot be said about the expression of aggression, which seems to be encouraged by groups of friends. Research tends to show a more positive assessment in terms of socialization of boys of school age who are aggressive on the playground, being considered to be nicer and friendlier than the less aggressive ones [12, p. 1993]. This feature will help develop the boys’ competitiveness and their agent orientation, which will contribute to their accommodation in society but also to the development of gender-role behaviors that will perpetuate existing stereotypes in society.
A fundamental role in children’s development is attributed to the group of friends by Bruce Carter and Laura McCloskey, who place the peer group in a privileged position as regards to the emergence and perpetuation of gender behavior [1, p. 294], subsequently influencing the individual even in college, where options are expanded and differentiated.
Along the same lines, Gail B. Werrbach, Harold D. Grotevant and Catherine R. Cooper (1990) conducted a descriptive analysis of the differences in the responses of 66 teens, on the measuring of the development of gender identity and gender-role concepts. The research revealed a greater tendency of high-school boys to comply with stereotypes, as they mainly rejected the nontraditional behavior with which they were confronted [15, p. 349]. As a result, peer group fulfills an important role in the socialization process, it constitutes a base, but also a source of pressure on teenagers in the process of assuming the gender dimension.
The importance of the group of friends during adolescence emerges from the study conducted in 1997 by Janice Zeman and Kimberly Shipman, who, after a survey involving 140 adolescents form the 5th, 8th and 9th grade, concluded that they are more concerned with sparing the feelings of colleagues and friends, than those of their parents [16, p. 917].
In a study conducted in 1998, involving 61 preschool children (28 girls and 33 boys) and designed to identify the perceptions of children regarding play time in gender-segregated and mixed groups, as well as the differences between representations of girls and boys in this area, and the link between them and favorite toys in the game, Christine L. Radckliff and Tarja Raag noted the same amount of importance granted by children to the group of friends, with boys exhibiting a greater dependence on social constraints than the girls involved in the research [11, p. 685].
All of these research studies bring to focus the importance of peer group during the psychosocial development of children, highlighting the fundamental role it plays in the internalization and perpetuating of gender stereotypes, and the need for careful evaluation of influences that the group of friends presents in the development of children. I consider peer group to represent an extremely important source of assimilating and perpetuating gender stereotypes. In my opinion maintaining an adequate level of gender representation is conditioned by the consideration of the influences of the groups of friends, while, in contradiction, the efforts of the family members and the educational environment are not able to lead to the desired results.
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- Zeman, J., Garber, J., <<Display Rules for Anger, Sadness and Pain: It Depends on Who is Watching>>, Child Development, 67, 1996. — 957-973 p.ALL MY FRIENDS DO IT: THE PEER GROUP AND GENDER STEREOTYPESAside from the unquestionable role played by family, school, media and society as a whole, a strong influence when it comes to educating children on gender differentiation is the group of friends who, in kindergarten and primary school, becomes in turn increasingly more strict in monitoring and strengthening gender-role norms in activities, preferences for certain toys, friends and so on. The article analyzes the influence of this group of equals on the emergence and perpetuation of gender stereotypes, drawing attention to the importance of adequate education about gender, which allows individuals to develop freely, unfettered by gender representation that have governed society for years.Written by: Manea Claudia-NeptinaPublished by: БАСАРАНОВИЧ ЕКАТЕРИНАDate Published: 01/10/2017Edition: euroasia-science.ru_29-30.12.2015_12(21)Available in: Ebook