“We don’t know what the color of their light bulb is yet, and maybe it will change.” Gender Socialization and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing

We live in a society that is drenched in gender stereotypes. Because of this, children regularly learn to adopt gender roles predetermined to them. To combat this, many parents are trying a  gender-neutral parenting style for their children. Gender-neutral parenting at its core is about allowing children to be exposed to a variety of gender types so they can explore their gender without restriction from society or the gender they were born with. Whether it is exclusively using they/them pronouns with their children or allowing them to choose their own clothes regardless of the intended gender, this type of parenting is a spectrum and changes individually.

I initially went into this project hoping to see the direct parental influence on their children’s gender construction. I wanted to see how parents out there were trying to break the gender barrier and allow their children to explore their own identity. However, due to the age of the children that are receiving this method of parenting, it is difficult to see how this type of parenting will affect them long term.

This project turned more into examining the spectrum of gender-neutral parenting at a personal level and finding the commonalities between the different parents’ styles of parenting. Ultimately, while all of the parents have similarities in parenting, everyone was different and personal to them. This research helped give me hope dissolving strict gender roles in the future. It was amazing to get to interview so many parents on their experience of gender-neutral parenting. So much so that I am now considering researching this topic more post-Wheaton.

I would like to thank Professor Kate Mason & Professor Karen McCormack for supporting me throughout my research, as well as Professor Schupp for encouraging me to study sociology in the first place!

Eastern Sociological Society Conference in Philadelphia Feb ’20

For a closer look at my research poster, click here!

Gender Socialization in Families & Gender-Neutral Child Rearing (pdf)