The Roles of Self-Socialization and Parent Socialization in Toddlers’ Gender-Typed Appearance

May Ling D. Halim, Abigail S. Walsh, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Kristina M. Zosuls, Diane N. Ruble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Children’s gender-stereotypical dress and appearance might be one of the first representations of children’s emerging sense of gender identity. Gender self-socialization theories posit that as children become more aware of gender categories, they become motivated to adhere to gender stereotypes, such as by expressing interest in dressing in feminine or masculine ways. Socialization theories predict that children’s gender-typed appearance reflects parents’ choices. For example, gender-traditional parents might dress their children in gender-stereotypical ways. At the same time, dressing in gender-stereotypical ways might contribute to children’s growing awareness of gender categories. The current study investigated the factors associated with gender-typed appearance among 175 (87 girls, 88 boys) Mexican American, Dominican American, and African American 2-year-olds. We examined both child and parent contributions to early gender-typed appearance. To measure children’s early conceptual understanding of gender categories, we assessed children’s use and recognition of gender verbal labels. To examine the influence of parent socialization, we assessed mothers’ gender-role attitudes. Children’s gender-typed appearance was observed and coded during an assessment. Surprisingly, mothers’ gender-role attitudes were not significantly associated with toddlers’ gender-typed appearance. However, toddlers’ gender labeling was associated with their gender-typed appearance, suggesting that self-socialization processes can be found as early as 24 months of age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2277-2285
Number of pages9
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Cognitive self-socialization
  • Gender concepts
  • Gender identity
  • Gender labeling
  • Gender-typed appearance
  • Language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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