Program

Nov 09, 2011

OVERVIEW

This interactive intervention is designed to
teach children to confront peers’ sexist remarks and consists of six lessons
that target six specific types of sexist remarks. An experimental evaluation of
the intervention found that participants were more likely than peers to
challenge sexist remarks at an immediate post-test, but these impacts faded by
the six-month follow-up. Impacts on gender-typing of self and others were mixed.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
Elementary-school children

This interactive
intervention is designed to teach children to confront peers’ sexist remarks,
defined as “any remark that conveys or promotes the belief that biological sex
is an appropriate basis on which to constrain individuals’ behavior, traits, or
roles.”

The intervention is
conducted in groups and consists of six lessons. Each lesson is focused on one
type of sexist remark. In each lesson, children are taught one phrase that can
be used to respond to the targeted type of sexist remark. At the beginning of
the lesson, children are taught the phrase and practice it until they can repeat
it verbatim. When all children can repeat the phrase verbatim, they are divided
into small groups and asked to create skits that include a sexist remark and the
retort phrase. Children take turns playing the different roles and, at the end
of the lesson, each group presents their skit to the class. Older students (ages
7 to 10) are also asked to write down the retort phrase, in order to further
reinforce their learning. The six types of sexist remarks and the retorts taught
are listed below.

Type of Sexist Remark Retort Phrase
Gender-based
exclusion from peer interaction (e.g., “Only boys can play this game”)
“You can’t say
that boys [girls] can’t play!”
Role-based
biases (e.g., “You can’t be the doctor, you have to be the nurse”)
“Not true,
gender doesn’t limit you!”
Comments about
a child’s counter-stereotypic characteristics (e.g., “Why do you have a
boy’s haircut?”)
“There’s no
such thing as a girls’ [boys’] ____ !”
Comparative
judgments (e.g., “Boys are better at math than girls”)
“Give it a
rest, no group is best!”
Trait
stereotyping (e.g., “Girls are gentle”)
“I disagree!
Sexism is silly to me!”
Highlighting
gender in a neutral context (e.g., “Boys sit over here and girls sit over
there”)
“That’s weird,
being boys and girls doesn’t matter here!”

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Evaluated population:
The evaluation
sample consisted of 153 students (81 boys and
72 girls) enrolled in a private elementary school in the southwest United
Stated. The student body of the school is 69 percent European American, 13
percent Latino, 9 percent African American, and 9 percent other. Participants
were between five and 10 years old, with the average age being seven years and
six months.

Approach:
Classrooms were randomly assigned to the interactive intervention or a narrative
intervention that presented the same themes described above through children’s
stories. More information on the narrative intervention can be found

here.

Children were
assessed on gender stereotyping of others, personal gender-typing, and
hypothetical responses to sexist comments in vignettes at pre-test, post-test,
and the six-month follow-up. At post-test, children’s actual responses to sexist
comments were observed using a confederate child who made a sexist comment while
an out-of-sight researcher observed.

Results: At
post-test, children in the interactive condition were significantly more likely
to challenge sexist remarks in the hypothetical vignettes. They were also more
likely to challenge sexist comments made by the confederate child. When compared
to children in the practice condition, children in the narrative condition
showed more interest in both feminine and masculine items. There was no
significant difference between conditions on gender-typing of others.

At the six-month
follow-up, there were no longer significant differences between conditions in
children’s response to sexist remarks or children’s gender-typing of self.
However, there was an impact for gender-typing of others: girls in the
interactive condition held more egalitarian beliefs than girls in the narrative
condition. There was no difference between boys in each condition. There were no
significant differences between conditions on gender-based preferences for
activities and occupations.

The researchers
hypothesized that the impact on challenging sexist remarks faded by the six
month follow-up because narrative group children learned the targeted retorts
from their peers. This possibility was informed by the fact that several
children in the narrative group repeated the targeted phrases verbatim at the
six-month assessment even though they were never asked to memorize them.

SOURCES FOR MORE
INFORMATION

References

Lamb, L. M.,
Bigler, R. S., Liben, L. S., & Green, V. A. (2009). Teaching children to
confront peers’ sexist remarks: Implications for theories of gender development
and educational practice. Sex Roles, 61, 361-382.

KEYWORDS:
Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (Co-ed), White/Caucasian,
School-based, Skills Training, Other Social/Emotional Health

Program
information last updated 11/09/11.

 

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