Children Worldwide Share the Same Sexist Beliefs

New research shows that children around the world have at least one thing in common: outdated, sexist beliefs. From the Baltimore to Nairobi, kids around the world learn some of the same harmful stereotypes and start believing them by age 10.

The Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS) is a collection of six original studies conducted in 15 different countries which aims to explore the global perspectives of children on gender.

One of the studies, “Boys Should Have The Courage to Ask a Girl Out: Gender Norms in Early Adolescent Relationships, included qualitative research involving children ages 11-13 living in Baltimore, Cuenca, Edinburgh, Ghent and Nairobi. The interview-based study found that across cultures, boys and girls believed stereotypes about relationships and gender, all based on the idea that “femininity is inferior to masculinity.”

For example, the children tended to believe that boys should be “romantically/sexually active and dominant” while girls are “innocent with less agency.”

The research also found that both boys and girls believed boys should be the ones to initiate dates and relationships while girls should focus on their physical appearance.

Boys were more likely to be encouraged to spend time outside of their home, while girls were told to stay home and do chores. These gendered roles were sometimes enforced with shaming or even beating, for both boys and girls.

Boys were also portrayed as “predators” across cultures while girls were seen as vulnerable. Girls were controlled in ways that boys were not, usually under the pretense of protecting them from boys, but which actually restricted their freedom.

“We found children at a very early age—from the most conservative to the most liberal societies—quickly internalize this myth that girls are vulnerable and boys are strong and independent,” said Robert Blum, the director of the Global Early Adolescent Study. “And this message is being constantly reinforced at almost every turn, by siblings, classmates, teachers, parents, guardians, relatives, clergy and coaches.”

It’s partly due to this reinforcement that the researchers believe we need to alter our strategies for combating these kinds of beliefs. One author said that our efforts to empower girls on an individual level isn’t enough when the messages they receive from everyone else are still so harmful and outdated. Not until more positive messages are reinforced at home and school will real change start to happen on a larger scale.

Changing these beliefs isn’t just about making us feel good, it’s critical to keeping kids healthy and safe and allowing them—boys and girls—to achieve their full potential. According to the study’s authors, there are real, concrete consequences to perpetuating gender stereotypes.

“Gender inequalities contribute to unsafe sexual behaviors that can lead to teenage pregnancy, intimate partner violence, and increased vulnerability to HIV infection—especially for girls—as it puts them in a disadvantaged position to negotiate safe sex or to refuse unwanted sex,” the study authors state. “Conversely, equal gender norms and attitudes can contribute to the capacity to feel and express sexual feelings and pleasure, contributing to sexual well-being.”

Photo Credit: Les Anderson

74 comments

Marie W
Marie W8 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill12 months ago

It's sad that manners are being considered sexist, or any ism.

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Yabout a year ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Yabout a year ago

Thank you

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Aaron F
Past Member about a year ago

@Nicole H. Well said...!

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Maureen G
Maureen Gabout a year ago

As heather g says.....change comes very slowly.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Habout a year ago

thanks

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago

Thanks!!!

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

There is still a lot to do by WOMEN. Why do we think that we all need to have the exact good size and forms to be desirable ? Why do we change our clothing every year ? Why do we go to the hairdresser, manicure, etc.. much more than men ?? Why do we read so many magazines on fashion, cooking, house decoration etc.. ?? Well most certainly this list is far from half way.
On the other hand, women still are the PARENT... who teaches / educates her kids when at home. How many moms play soccer or football with their girls ? NONE. or bake a cake together? MANY. Repair the tyre of their bicycle ? NONE. Give the dog a bath and do their fur ? MANY.. Must I continue ?? Certainly not! I'm NOT a perfect mother. But because I have seen how my parents "divided" the jobs at home, I have never given my boys only boy toys, and my daughter only dolls, cooking devices, vacuum cleaners and ironing machine.... They both had a good MIX of everything. However when other kids came to play, the girls had the dolls, the boys the cars, trucks, tractors etc.. I also learned my boys how to cook and iron and clean. And I learned my daughter more "male" jobs. I told them : suppose one of you gets sick for 6 months or more, how will you survive ?? Mothers now also work until 60 or 65 years. When their daughter is sick, their mom can not take 6 months free. So, the husband has to take over the jobs she usually is doing. Simple as th

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heather g
heather gabout a year ago

Change comes very slowly

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