“Wonderful but Weak”: Children’s Ambivalent Attitudes Toward Women

Matthew D. Hammond, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


According to ambivalent sexism theory, prejudice toward women has two forms: hostile (i.e., antipathy toward women) and benevolent (i.e., patronizing and paternalistic attitudes toward women). We investigated whether 5- to 11-year-old children’s gender attitudes exhibit this bipartite, ambivalent structure. Consistent with this possibility, latent variable modeling on a new developmentally appropriate instrument revealed that children’s (n = 237) hostile and benevolent attitudes were two distinct but positively associated factors. Using this instrument, we then explored age and U.S. regional differences in ambivalent gender attitudes, as well as whether these attitudes predicted self-evaluations and preferences associated with traditional gender roles. Stronger agreement with hostile and benevolent gender attitudes was found among younger children, except for boys’ benevolent attitudes, which did not vary with age. Children also reported lower agreement with benevolent gender attitudes in a more gender-egalitarian region of the United States (New York vs. Illinois). Finally, children’s benevolent and hostile attitudes differentially predicted their self-evaluations (e.g., boys’ benevolent vs. hostile attitudes predicted higher vs. lower self-evaluations of warmth, respectively). No evidence emerged for links between gender attitudes and traditional career or relationship expectations. These findings provide the first known evidence that children’s gender attitudes are ambivalent—comprising distinct, but positively related, dimensions of subjective positivity and negativity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-90
Number of pages15
JournalSex Roles
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Development
  • Gender
  • Prejudice
  • Sexism
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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