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Gender Roles

  1. Alison P. Lenton

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0377

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Lenton, A. P. 2010. Gender Roles. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Gender roles are the set of expectations a society has about girls and boys, and women and men. These expectations are multifaceted and generally include specifications about appearances, personality traits, emotions, interests, abilities, and occupations. For example, in Western societies men are expected to be more agentic and less emotional than women, and women are expected to be more communal and less aggressive than men. More commonly, men may be assumed to have paid occupations and to be financially responsible for their families, whereas women are assumed to be homemakers with primary responsibility for the children. Such beliefs serve to define the sets of characteristics and behaviors that are considered appropriate or inappropriate for each sex. In other words, gender roles do more than merely describe the way things are: They describe how things should be.