Nov 09, 2011


This intervention is designed to teach
children to confront peers’ sexist remarks and consists of six lessons that
target six specific types of sexist remarks through children’s stories. An
experimental evaluation of the intervention found that participants showed more
interest in both feminine and masculine items, but were less likely to challenge
sexist remarks than the peers who participated in an interactive intervention at
post-test. These differences were not significant at the six month follow-up.


Target population:
Elementary-school children

This narrative
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

The intervention is
conducted in groups and consists of six lessons. Each focuses on one type of
sexist remark. In each lesson, children are read two stories. In the first
story, a child directs sexist remarks toward a peer, and the peer responds with
one of the designated retorts. After they hear the story, children are asked to
draw a picture of their favorite part. The six types of sexist remarks and
retorts contained in the stories are listed below. The second story involves a
bullying situation based on a social category other than gender (e.g., race or
nationality). After reading the story, the adult leading the intervention
reviews the behaviors used by the story characters to confront bullying and
stresses the importance of addressing bullying.

Type of Sexist Remark Retort Phrase
exclusion from peer interaction (e.g., “Only boys can play this game”)
“You can’t say
that boys [girls] can’t play!”
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’] ____ !”
judgments (e.g., “Boys are better at math than girls”)
“Give it a
rest, no group is best!”
stereotyping (e.g., “Girls are gentle”)
“I disagree!
Sexism is silly to me!”
gender in a neutral context (e.g., “Boys sit over here and girls sit over
“That’s weird,
being boys and girls doesn’t matter here!”


Evaluated population:
The evaluation
sample consisted of 153 students (81 boys and
72 girls) enrolled in a private elementary school in the southwest United
States. 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 ten years old, with the average age being seven years and
six months.

Classrooms were randomly assigned to the narrative intervention or an
interactive intervention that required children to memorize the phrases listed
above and practice using them in skits. More information on the interactive
intervention can be found


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

At the six-month
follow-up, there were no 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.



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.

children (3-11), elementary, males and females (co-ed), white/Caucasian,
school-based, skills training, other social/emotional health

information last updated 11/09/11.


Subscribe to Child Trends

Short weekly updates of recent research on children and youth.