Television and Sex-Role Stereotyping1


  • Leslie Zebrowitz McArthur,

    Corresponding author
    1. Brandeis University
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  • Susan V. Eisen

    1. Brandeis University
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    • 3

      The authors would like to express their appreciation to the staff, parents, and children affiliated with the Lemberg Nursery School and the Waltham Children's Center at Brandeis University for their helpful cooperation. Special thanks also go to David Post who served as one of the experimenters, and to Barbara and Joseph Quinn who served as models in Study III.

  • 1

    This research was conducted under a faculty fellowship granted to the first author by the Ford Foundation. However, the conclusions, opinions, and other statements in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Ford Foundation. A National Institute of Mental Health Small Grant 1 RO3 MH25016-01 to the fust author also supported this research.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. L. Zebrowitz McArthur, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass. 02154.


The possible influence of television on sex-stereotyped behavior was investigated in three studies. In Study I the portrayal of male and female central characters on children's Saturday morning television programs was examined, and a number of differences consistent with current sex-role stereotypes were found. Males and females were portrayed in different roles, they manifested different behaviors, and their behaviors were followed by different consequences. In addition, male characters were more frequent than females, and they exhibited higher rates of behavior. Similar differences in the portrayal of males and females in the commercial announcements accompanying these programs were found in Study II. The sexes differed in their frequency of appearance, their location, their roles, their expertise, and the consequences of their behavior. In Study III the effects on children's behavior of exposure to sex-stereotyped vs. non-stereotyped behavior by adult televised models were examined. It was found that children manifested greater imitation and recall for the behavior of a same-sex model with the result that boys exposed to “stereotyped” behavior by a male and female model manifested and recalled relatively more “masculine” behavior than those exposed to “non-stereotyped” behavior, while the opposite trend obtained for girls. Implications of these three studies for television's contribution to sex-stereotyped behavior are discussed.