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The Psychological Effects of Gender Stereotyping

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Research proposal 

Topic: The psychological effects of gender stereotyping.  

Question: what are the psychological effects of gender stereotyping with the use of colour upon children? 


Rationale and relevance for the research 

The purpose of this research proposal is to distinguish whether or not implications of psychological behavior can possibly be effected through gender stereotyping with the use of colour upon children between the ages of 3 to 12. The proposal will examine the geographic variation of United Kingdom (UK) as well as countries with similar demographic, economic and social characteristics to the UK, such as USA, Canada and members of the European Union. The evidence would consist of a general perspective of children regarding gender-typed objects and colours gathering theoretical data on gender development to establish the concepts of gender stereotypes and gender-related preferences. Additionally, the use of a range of systemic literature reviews written and used by a selection of specialists primarily centring focus upon the short-term and long-term psychological, both social and cognitive influences upon children with the use of colours. Thus, the evidence would consist of three main themes and key theories to indicate and attempt to create a link between the cognitive and social psychological effects upon children with the influences of gender stereotyping.  

The importance of the psychological effects upon children with the concept of gender stereotyping as gender is considered a social construct, and not just seen as a product of biology (Navarro, 2014). Psychological research has indicated that gender stereotypes are developed through both, direct experiences and mass media images (Navarro, 2014). Similarly, Dinella et al (2013) suggested gender differentiation arises throughout the lifespan within various of domains, which include activities, behaviors, personality traits and cognitive abilities. These features have been recognised as the gender-typing process and the most relevant theories that analyses such processes are, social learning theory and the self-socialisation theories (Dinella et al, 2013). The concept of social learning theory perceives gender-typed preferences are taught and explained from socialisation agents (family, teachers etc.) that have the potential reinforce the social expected0 behaviors and social norms for each gender and would establish negative consequences if boys or girls presented preferences that are more appropriate for the opposite gender images (Navarro, 2014). Whereas, self-socialisation perspective is when children actively seek information concerning gender stereotypes depending on the individual, the social context, and other conditions that make gender a significant variable, such as peer pressure (Navarro, 2014). Thus, establishing awareness of these stereotypes in relation to theories may influence children’s understanding of the world, and also the way they relate with other people and social objects (Karniol, 2011). Exposure to gender stereotypes through colours has been shown to be related to adverse effects in children (Zemach et al 2007) and what they later deem as socially acceptable as this paper focuses on the psychological implications of gender stereotyping it is important to have wider knowledge of the literature.


Aims: This Research proposal will take on a systematic review of relevant literature from University databases; EBSCOhost, CINAHL plus with full text, Taylor & Francis online and reference lists, also full text and key journals/articles will also be searched and documented. All of which will help contribute to developing the research topic and help fill any research gaps.


Objectives: The research proposal will review all relevant literature whilst concentrating on three main objectives: 

  • To examine the impact of gender and gender-related colour stereotypes 
  • To gain a deeper understanding of the psychological effects upon children
  •  Provide a descriptive analysis of child development based on gender


The following inclusion and exclusion technique were used to retrieve the relevant studies needed as measurable factors in this literature search were applied.

Inclusion criteria for the literature review

  • Primary studies involving associated and focused on the effects of colour-coding and gender stereotypes with the use of colour
  • Literature based on children aged between 3-12 years of age
  • Studies that associate health inequalities (e.g. social, economic, health and gender) among children within a family
  • Systemic literature reviews written and used by a selection of specialists primarily centring focus upon the short-term and long-term psychological
  • Literature research limited within the UK, however will include some literature from Canada and United States due to similar demographic, economic and social characteristics to the UK
  • English language only
  • 2005-present to cover a decade of research on between the cognitive and social psychological effects upon children with the influences of gender stereotyping

Exclusion criteria for the literature review

  • Studies that lack focus on main subject of gender stereotypes with the use of colour and colour-coding among children
  • Studies that have not been done within the UK, Canada or the United States
  • Literature that presents different age groups that are below 3 years of age and above 12 years of age

 Thematic review of literature & analysis  

Gender-typed Colours

Wong and Hines(2014)highlighted the sufficient of colour and the importance, especially with the use of colour-coding as it influences the choice of toys upon children due to the gender colour-coding of children’s toys make particular toys more or less appealing to a given gender. Similarly Kamiol(2011) stated that gender stereotypes can impact and influence children’s colouring preference in two ways; firstly in the nature of gender-stereotyped illustrations provided for children to colour, and secondly in children’s choice of gender- stereotyped or gender-neutral colours within society. Research upon infants and children have shown evidence of the development of early perceptions of colour and of colour preferences, moreover these preferences differ from those of older children and adults (Zemach and Teller,2007). In addition to this, preference upon the colours pink and blue present gender differences with girls generally preferring pink compared to boys who generally prefer the colour blue (Chiu et al,2006). Comparatively the significance of the use of colour to distinguish boys and girls in preference to objects and activities such as toys has debated by researchers and commonly within society (Wong and Himes,2014). Wong and Himes (2014) suggested colours associated with gender could create irrational gender stereotypes (for example that pink is for girls and blue is for boys) that develop gender differences. In light of this, Karniol (2011) conducted an investigation on the impacts and influences colour has towards children and the results demonstrated that 95 percent of children identified pink as a colour for girls, whereas blue was somewhat less strongly associated with boys. Another concern is that gender-coding by colour could be a developmental implication as children spend their time learning through playing with toys and different toys display/offer different learning opportunities (Wong and Himes,2014). Not to mention toys based on gender and colour- coding display various characteristics and skills targeted to boys and girls, boys who tend to play with gender colour-coding toys develop spatial reasoning skills,        which refers to the ability to think about objects in three dimensions and being able to draw conclusion about those objects from limited information (Eccles and Schoon, 2014). On the other hand, girls who play with gender colour-coding toys develop social play, which establishes and enhances verbal and social skills (Wong and Himes, 2014). Furthermore, Block (1983) highlighted recognizable and consistent gender differences between boys’ and girls’ toy preferences have been hypotheisised to contribute and aid the gender differences in later spatial reasoning cognitive and social development outcomes. Thus, playing with “boy-typical” toys displayed an idea that could enhance spatial skills which are important in succeeding in science and math’s, Wong and Himes (2014) suggested researchers and parents encouraged girls to play with “boy- typical” toys in an attempt to reduce and narrow down gender gaps. However, no research has been conducted or discussed relating to boys who are encouraged to play with “girl-typical” toys and whether or not this enhances their social and verbal skills (Paul,2011). Nevertheless, with the evidence from the literature reviewed there is no empirical evidence that gender colour-coding of “gender-typical” toys alters boys’ or girls’ interest in them or produces and broadens the differences between boys’ and girls’ toy interests. According to Block (1983) girls are encouraged more than boys to play with socially perceived boys’ toys as a means of developing reflective skills.



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