CORDIS - Forschungsergebnisse der EU
Inhalt archiviert am 2024-05-30

Boys will be boys? Gender differences in the socialization of disruptive behaviour in early childhood

Final Report Summary - BOYS WILL BE BOYS? (Boys will be boys? Gender differences in the socialization of disruptive behaviour in early childhood)

The longitudinal study “Boys will be boys” was a longitudinal study examining the relation between mothers’ and fathers’ gender-differentiated socialization and the socio-emotional development in boys and girls in the first years of life.

Intact families with two children were selected from municipality records in the Western region of the Netherlands. Families were included if the youngest child was around 12 months of age and the oldest child was between 2.5 and 3.5 years old. The study has a four-wave longitudinal design with assessments at ages 12 months (Time 1), 24 months (Time 2), 36 months (Time 3), and 48 months (Time 4).

In the first year, 1,249 eligible families were invited by mail to participate in this study and 31% were willing to participate (N = 390). At the time of the 4-year wave, 18 families dropped out due to emigration, family issues, or because families considered participation as too demanding.

Every year, each family was visited twice within a period of about two weeks: once with the mother and the two children and once with the father and the two children. The order in which mothers and fathers were visited was counterbalanced. Before the first home visit, both parents were asked to individually complete a set of questionnaires. During the home visits, parent-child interactions and sibling interactions were filmed, and the children and parents completed computer tests. All home visits were conducted by pairs of trained graduate or undergraduate students.

We found evidence for the argument that gender is an important factor in the study of child development. In the family context the genders of all family members (i.e. child gender, parent gender, sibling gender composition) appear to influence child behavior. Moreover, gender stereotypes are important explanatory factors for the behavior of parents towards their sons and daughters. We showed that there is indeed a link between parents’ gender stereotypes and children’s attitudes about gender, at least for mothers and daughters. In addition, the results suggested that parents use gender talk to convey their ideas about gender and gender roles to their children and they attune their gender messages to the gender composition of their two children. Furthermore, we found evidence for a pathway from parental gender stereotypes to gender-differentiated parenting to gender differences in child behavior.

In addition, we studied similarities and differences between mothers' and fathers' parenting practices while taking both biological factors (i.e. parental sex hormones) and child characteristics (i.e. gender, age, and birth order) into account. We found that mothers show higher levels of sensitivity and nonintrusiveness than fathers. In addition, mothers intervene more often in response to non-compliant behavior of their children than fathers, but both mothers and fathers adjust their discipline strategies to the developmental level of their children. In addition, parents are more sensitive and intrusive towards their firstborn child than towards their second-born child above and beyond child age. For biological factors, we showed that more diurnal variability in testosterone is associated with higher parenting quality in fathers, but lower parenting quality in mothers.
Furthermore, firstborns’ interactions with their younger sibling and parenting towards siblings are examined in relation to socio-emotional development. We showed that firstborns’ sharing with their second-born siblings was primarily influenced by situational factors, such as the presence of a specific parent and interacting with a parent instead of an unfamiliar adult before sharing. In addition, parenting towards all children in a family influences socio-emotional development of a specific child.

Furthermore, second-born children have more social skills at the age of three than their firstborn siblings, but compared to these firstborn siblings also showed more externalizing behaviors.

For emotion socialization, we studied the role of various family, parent, and child characteristics in the way parents socialize emotions in their children and, accordingly, children’s social and emotional competencies. We showed that parents adjusted their emotion socialization behavior from early toddlerhood to late preschool age, and that implicit gender-typed ideas influenced the way parents discussed emotions with their children. We found that the sibling gender combination in a family played a role in fathers’ sensitive responsiveness to their infants’ affective cues and in the socio-emotional behavior of both children in the family, suggesting that families with two boys showed more problematic interaction patterns than other family types. In addition, we found that fathers’ psychopathology symptoms predicted more internalizing problems in their children through their partners’ use of emotion talk regarding negative emotions.