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Gender Stereotypes in Early Years

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 2435 words Published: 20th Jul 2017

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The purpose of this research project is to investigate whether gender stereotypes existing in todays society affects childrens choices in play. The research will focus mainly on children around the ages of 2 – 3 years as this is when gender identity and the adopting of gender specific behaviour begins to show (Hughes, 2010). For many years society has been full of gender stereotypes and children have regularly learnt to adopt to gender specific roles as a result of this (REF). The research will also explore whether bringing children up in their set genders will have any effects on their later development.

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Aims and objectives

The aim of this research is to discover whether gender stereotyping has an effect on the choices children make in their play, particularly looking at toy selection and areas the children gather in, in an early years setting. A discussion of how gender identity is formed and as to how gender roles are learnt and adopted by children will be a main focus in this study. The research will also explore how children being steered towards playing and behaving gender specific can hinder their development and what practitioners can do to avoid this.


Past research that I have done has widened my understandings of how many children in settings adopt gender specific behaviour, for example not to cry if you’re a boy and to be innocent and pretty if you’re a girl. After doing placement in an early years setting and experiencing children playing in traditional ways for example boys with cars and girls steered towards playing with dolls and dressing up, I am extremely interested in finding out why children play in this way and as to what kind of an effect playing to a specific gender can have on children’s later/overall development. Although many of us believe in giving children as many opportunities and policy is in place to make sure this happens we still subconsciously treat boys and girls differently (REF). Therefore gender stereotyping appears to create many barriers to children receiving all the opportunities to play equal and personally I believe that this will have significant effects on their later life choices.

Research Questions

I will centre my research around these four main research areas:

  • How do children develop gender role behaviour?
  • What is the policy context around equality for girls and boys?
  • Does gender stereotyping hinder children’s overall development?
  • How can practitioners support inclusive practice for both sexes in the early years setting?

2. Literature Review 1,500

There has been extensive research carried out on gender stereotyping in children and many ideas have been formed as to how children develop gender specific roles. However before we begin looking into this topic it is fundamental that we define what is meant by gender.

How do children develop a gender role behaviour

There are many ways in which it is said children learn and adopt gender specific roles such as, paretns, peers, media, literature and practitioner interaction.. ‘there is much discussion on whether it is nature or nurture side’. According to Yellend (1998), gender development is a systematic process beginning at birth and frequently reshaped thoughtout life depending on the sex of the child.

There are many studies which have been carried out with the social learning perspective in mind which propose that parents contribute to sex-typed behaviours in children and are a great influence to shaping their child’s sex role development (Golombok, 2004). This is done through the different types of toys they buy and the way in which they respond to their children for example a positive response would be given to a girl playing with domestic type toys and likewise a boy playing with cars (Bee, Boyd, 2010).

Socialisation – Parents are key to gender roles as imitation is a vital part of young children’s lives and they learn many things through imitation especially around the ages of 2 – 3 years( REF) it has been said that children learn their gender roles by coping their same sex parent e.g. girl watching her mum do the cooking will then maybe assume that that is a role to be carried out by the female. Family are key when it comes to toy selection as they are generally the first people who buy for their children/grandsons……adults selection of toys for their children/grandson are likely to be gender specific as society is so full of stereotypes we automatically separate boys and girls toys as it has become a subconscious motive?

Many magazines will have toys under ‘toys for girls’ and toys for boys’ having product such as dolls for girls and trucks, cars..for boys

Peers can then continue the already existent believes children have about what should be played with if a girl or boy.

Interaction with practitioners also contributes, use words such as pretty, boys discouraged from crying (touch gender).

What is the policy context around equality for girls and boys?

  • The equality act 2012
  • EYFS/ECM will have wrote something on opportunism
  • Each setting will incorporate many policies within their setting
  • The Early Years Foundation Stage, unique child states that children ‘inclusive practice’.

Does gender stereotyping hinder children’s overall development?

Does gender stereotyping have an effect on childrens academic achievents and later career choices?

It is likely that traditional gender roles (stereotypes) will continue to limit both boys and girls academic opportunities – little girls discouraged from leaderships tasks, and maths steered towards nurturing roles

“persistent adult beliefs about ‘typical’ behaviour for boys or girls affect children’s experiences” (Lindon, 2012, pg. 7).

The ways in which children careers choices are relayed to children can be subtle but consistent, sending a clear message about the academic domains in which girls and boys are supposed to excel, for example giels are steered away from maths.

Can be shown through the later academic achievements of children eg, girls do better in english?

How can practitioners support inclusive practice for both sexes in the early years setting

It is important that children receive as many opportunites as possible in the early years

Hard cause we are so used to it we do it subconsciously

Follow policy

Gender neutral environment

Challenging stereotypical thoughts within your setting. If a boy tells a girl she can’t be a doctor, ask him why, and show him pictures of female doctors. If a girl tells a boy he can’t be a ballet dancer have resources to hand that show a different story

Role play is a great way to show gender equality

Showing pictures of women firefighters, women builders etc.

3. Methodology

3.1 Sample

The sample type I have chosen is a convenience sample, which refers to the “collection of information from members of the population who are conveniently available to provide it” (Sekaran & Bougie, 2010, pg.276). Therefore I have chosen to interview practitioners in early years settings in the Northumberland area, I have chosen this area as firstly I know the area which means I will save on time as I won’t have to find my way around a new place and secondly I have visited these settings before meaning they are easy accessible.

3.2 Research method – Interviews

I have chosen to use face to face interviews for my research. Interviews are a method whereby one person asks questions of an individual with the expectation of getting answers to a particular question (Mukherji & Albon, 2010). Interviews are the best suited method for my research due to the in depth collection of data, allowing for exploration of issues (O’Leary, 2010). I will be carrying out a semi structured interviews meaning I will be able to explore around the topic and not just collect responses to set questions. Interviews are a research method that provides us with qualitative data (REF). I have chosen a method that collects qualitative data rather than quantitative as the topic I have chosen to research requires in depth understandings and practitioners opinions and not just simple yes and no responses.

3.2(iii) Semi-structured approach

There are many types of interviews however I have chosen to use semi structured interviews, often called a ‘conversation with a purpose’ (REF). Semi structured interviews are where the interviewer has a checklist of topics and questions to explore however the way in which these are explored will vary dependant on the flow of conversation with each individual (Holmes, 2005). By using this type of interview I will be able to explore around the topic as there will be area for on the spot questions.

The role of the interviewer is important to know to conduct an effective piece of research. The interviewer will probe the interviewee however will know when they need to be quiet (REF). The interviewer knows the areas he or she wants to cover with the interviewee, but allows the interviewee the options to take different paths and explore different thoughts and feelings.

All interviews will be recorded and transcribed verbatim and this will contribute to the reliability of the research (Royse, 2008). After having transcribing the data I will analyse the data through content or discourse.

3.2(i) Advantages of method

Interviews are an excellent qualitative research method meaning they allow for in depth rich data to be collected about key themes (REF). One to one interviews allow for a rapport to be developed between the interviewer and the interviewee (Matthews & Ross, 2010). This could potentially lead to more information being expressed as the participant is likely to feel comfortable and therefore this gives reliable/valid data.

Face to face interviews have traditionally been seen as the most effective method in regards to the response rate (Vaus, 2002 …) The response rate is always achieved as interviews are scheduled meaning answers are gurantueed

Another advantage of using interviews is the way in which the interviewer is able to observe the interviewees facial expressions and body language which in turn will give the interviewer a clearer indication of the interviewees true feelings. This will add to the validity of the research.

3.2(ii) Disadvantages of method

Although there are many advantages of using the research method interviews there are also many disadvantages. Firstly interviews are time consuming, scheduling the interview, conducting the interview, and transcribing recordings takes up a lot of time (May, 2011). Secondly the interviewers presence can have a great deal of an effect on the participant, factors such as tone of voice, the way a question may be rephrased, voicing an opinion, inadequate note taking, even the gender and appearance of the interviewer may lead to errors and bias (Fontana & Frey, 2000).

Thirdly achieving reliability is challenging because each interview is unique in some way (Conway,Jako & Goodman, 1995). This can be because there are differences between the way each interview is conducted, difference in the way questions are asked due to there not being standardised responses, and the data collected.

Fontana, A. & Frey, J. H. (2000) ‘The interview: from structured questions to negotiated text’ iin N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds), Handbook of Qualitative Reasearch. 2nd ed. London: SAGE

Conway, J. M., Jako, R. A., & Goodman, D. (1995). A meta- analysis of interrater and internal consistency reliability of selection interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 565-579.

4 Ethical considerations

Before carrying out any research it is crucial that ethical considerations are taken into account (May, 2011). Informed consent is essential, and should ensure that the participants are fully informed prior to participation and are aware that their involvement is completely voluntary (McLaughlin, 2007). Therefore in advance to carrying out the research it is vital that I receive informed consent from all participants, this will be achieved by obtaining a signed consent form from each participant (See Appendix). It is fundamental that participants know who is doing the research, the aims and objectives, what is being asked of them, how the data will be used and what steps will be taken to ensure confidentiality (Walliman, 2011). Another ethical consideration to consider is confidentiality, thus meaning we are obliged to protect the participant’s identity (Silverman, 2011). Information will be treated with respect and the participants would remain anonymous; both of which are extremely important to the ethics base (Hobart, Frankel, 2004, GSCC, 2002) Therefore all participants’ names will be changed so as to protect them; participants will be informed of this.

All participants have the right to withdraw themselves and their results fromthe research.

Interviews will be recorded so that they can be transcribed, this means the data will be kept for some time (Matthews & Ross, 2010) therefore it is important that this data is klept in a secure place. (data protection)

Beneficence is another ethical issue that will be key in this study. Beneficence relates to the

Non – maleficence, the principle of’ not doing harm’…must be applied to all participants

Although my research would have benefited from me carrying out observations of children in their early year’s environment unfortunately due to the University ethics statement I am prohibited from doing this and therefore unable to observe children in their environment as part of my research.

Research Methods for Business: A Skill Building Approach

Uma Sekaran, Roger Bougie

5, illustrated

John Wiley & Sons, 2010

Surveys in Social Research

Social Research Today Series

Research methods/Sociology

David A. De Vaus

5, illustrated, reprint

Routledge, 2002


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