Developmental antecedents of adherence to masculinity norms: A 9-year longitudinal study of urban Chinese families.

Rui Yang, Theodore E.A. Waters, Yufei Gu, Niobe Way, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Xinyin Chen, Guangzhen Zhang, Huihua Deng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of literature shows that adherence to some aspects of Western masculinity norms, including the suppression of emotional vulnerability, avoidance of seeking support from others, and exaggerated physical toughness, is associated with poorer psychological and social outcomes. While existing research suggests that parental gender beliefs and caregiving behaviors might influence the development of children’s gendered behaviors, little is known about the developmental origins of individual differences in adherence to masculinity norms. The current study aims to address this gap and presents a longitudinal investigation of how parental gender beliefs and maternal sensitivity during infancy contribute to children’s adherence to masculinity norms during middle childhood. Data were drawn from a mixed-method 9-year longitudinal study of 374 urban Chinese families (48.40% with daughters). Parental gender beliefs were assessed at 24 months, maternal sensitivity was assessed with mother–child interaction observations at 14 and 24 months, and children’s self-reported adherence to masculinity norms were assessed at age 10 years. Results indicate that while parental gender beliefs had no associations with children’s adherence to masculinity norms, maternal sensitivity predicted children’s adherence to masculinity norms (β = −.18, p = .008) above and beyond parental gender beliefs and parental education level; moreover, there was a significant interaction of sex on the effect of maternal sensitivity on children’s adherence to masculinity (β = −.23, p = .025), and the association was significant only for boys. This is the first longitudinal study to examine the developmental influence of parenting sensitivity and gender beliefs on boys’ and girls’ adherence to masculinity norms. Results demonstrate that sensitive parenting may have long-term protective effects on boys’ adherence to harmful gender norms and represent a pathway for intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1108
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 25 2024


  • Chinese families
  • gender development
  • masculinity
  • maternal sensitivity
  • parental gender beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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