The Family Contexts of Gender Development in Childhood and Adolescence

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We review research on the family's role in gender development during childhood and adolescence. Our discussion highlights children's dyadic family relationship experiences with their parents and siblings; additionally, we describe ways in which the larger system of family relationships, including gendered dynamics in the marriage and the differential family experiences of sisters versus brothers may have implications for gender development. We also emphasize the significance of contextual factors—ranging from situational demands and affordances to forces emanating from the larger social ecology—in family gender socialization. We conclude that family experiences may have a more important impact on gender development than has previously been believed, and we highlight directions for future study. These include: (1) applying more complex models of parent socialization and family dynamics to the study of the family's role in gender development; (2) expanding on research directed at the socialization of sex differences to study how family dynamics are linked to individual differences in girls' and boys' gendered qualities and behaviors; and (3) further exploring how contextual factors exert an impact on gender socialization in the family.

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