Gender Role Stereotypes, Expectancy Effects, and Parents' Socialization of Gender Differences


  • Jacquelynne S. Eccles,

    Corresponding author
    1. Universities of Colorado and Michigan
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      JACQUELYNNE S. ECCLES is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Research Scientist at the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. She has authored or co-authored over 50 articles and book chapters on topics ranging from gender role socialization, teacher expectancies, and classroom influences on student motivation, to adolescent development in the family and school context. She is a member of the MacArthur Foundation Network on Successful Adolescent Development.

  • Janis E. Jacobs,

    1. University of Nebraska
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      JANIS E. JACOBS is Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Nebraska, having received her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. Her research on gender has focused on the relation between parents' sex-typed achievement beliefs and children's achievement beliefs and behavior. Her other research interests concern the use of base-rates and judgment heuristics in everyday decision making.

  • Rena D. Harold

    1. Michigan State University
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      RENA D. HAROLD received her Ph.D. in Social Work and Psychology from the University of Michigan. She is currently Assistant Professor of Social Work at Michigan State University, and Adjunct Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Her research interests include social development processes and gender differences, and the impact of macrosocial issues on individuals and families, as well as examination of factors that can mediate these effects.

Institute for Social Research, P.O. Box 1248, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48106–1248


Gender segregation continues to exist in many activity and occupational domains. This article uses the expectancy effect perspective to analyze the role parents may play in influencing their children to engage in gender role stereotyped activities. It outlines the theoretical bases for such effects, and discusses how to distinguish between accuracy and perceptual bias in parents' gender role differentiated perceptions of their children's competencies and interests. Then it summarizes the results of a series of studies, which show that parents distort their perceptions of their own children in gender role stereotypic activities such as math and sports, that the child's gender affects parents' causal attributions for their children's performance in gender role stereotypic activities, and that these perceptual biases influence the children's own self-perceptions and activity choices. Finally, the article presents a theoretical model of how these processes may occur.