Cross Cultural Findings

Turning to the cross-cultural literature, Zammuner (1982, 1987, 1993) found that Italian and Dutch children (ages 5-12 years) assigned different traits and activities to males and females. British and Hungarian children's knowledge of stereotypes was related to parents' gender attitudes and father's sex-typed behaviors (Turner & Gervai, 1995).

Williams and Best's Study of Children's Sex Stereotypes. In a more comprehensive cross-cultural study of sex stereotypes, Williams and Best (1990a) administered the SSM II to 5-, 8-, and 11-year-olds in 25 countries and found that the percentage of stereotyped responses increased from around 60% at age 5 to around 70% at age 8. Strong, aggressive, cruel, coarse, and adventurous were consistently associated with men at all age levels, and weak, appreciative, soft-hearted, gentle, and meek were consistently associated with women.

26 25 24

2 21

8-yr-olds

Countries

DC O

Figure 2. SSM II Scores for 5- and 8-year-olds in 23 countries.

Both male and female scores were unusually high in Pakistan and relatively high in New Zealand and England, suggesting that children in these countries have an appreciable knowledge of sex stereotypes (see Figure 2). Scores were atypically low in Brazil, Taiwan, Germany, and France, suggesting that children in these countries did not have consistent knowledge of the stereotype traits. Although there was variation between countries in the rate of learning, there was a general developmental pattern in which stereotype learning begins prior to age 5 years, accelerates during the early school years, and is completed during the adolescent years.

Boys and girls learned the stereotypes at a similar rate, but there was a tendency for male-stereotype traits to be learned somewhat earlier than female traits. In 17 of the 24 countries studied, male stereotype items were better known by both sexes than female items. Germany was the only country where there was a clear tendency for the female stereotype to be better known than the male. Female stereotype items were learned earlier than male items in Latin/Catholic cultures (Brazil, Chile, Portugal, Venezuela) where the adult-defined female stereotype is more positive than the male.

In predominantly Muslim countries, 5-year-olds associate traits with the two sexes in a more highly differentiated manner and they learn the stereotypes, particularly the male items, at an earlier age than in nonMuslim countries. Children in predominantly Christian countries initially learn the stereotypes at a slower pace, perhaps reflecting the less differentiated nature of the adult stereotypes, particularly in Catholic countries.

Intons-Peterson's Study of Adolescent Sex Stereotypes. Looking at older children (11-18 years of age), Intons-Peterson (1988) found that stereotypes of men and women were more similar in Sweden than in the United States. Surprisingly, however, ideal occupational choices did not overlap for Swedish boys and girls; females were interested in service occupations (e.g., flight attendant, hospital worker, nanny), and males were interested in business occupations.

Stereotype findings with children are consistent with the adult model of sex stereotypes discussed earlier. Children's stereotypes seem universal, with culture modifying the rate of learning and minor aspects of content.

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