Most Americans struggle to determine if their gender differences are based on biology or societal expectations, according to a recent report by Pew Research Center. Notably, there is a discrepancy between how U.S. parents are currently raising their children and how they believe they should instead raise them.
To better understand gender equality in the U.S, researchers asked questions about how children are currently encouraged to be leaders, talk about their feelings and play with toys typically associated with the opposite gender. By separating the responses from adults by generation, gender and political affiliation, their sentiments on raising their children become much clearer.
The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 4,573 respondents.
Here are three surprising ways Americans are raising their sons and daughters differently.
1. Women and millennials are most open to letting their kids enjoy activities or toys not typical for their gender
Pew researchers found that most American adults are open to the idea of exposing young girls and boys to toys and activities that are typically associated with the opposite gender. In other words, boys are able to do the same things girls are allowed to and vice versa.
Still, women are more likely than men to say that deviating from traditional gender norms is a good approach to take in raising both girls and boys.
There are also clear generational differences that are tied to child rearing. Younger generations are generally more open to deviating from the typical girls versus boys mentality, especially millennials.
About 81 percent of millennials say it’s a good thing for parents to encourage their girls to engage in activities that are typically associated with boys, while about a quarter of both the Baby Boomer and Silent Generations think that’s a bad idea.
On the other hand, 69 percent of millennials say it’s a good thing for parents to encourage young boys to play with toys and pursue activities normally associated with girls, while older generations don’t support such a move as much.
2. Girls aren’t taught to be leaders and boys aren’t taught to share their feelings
The biggest divide between American adults in their child-rearing can be seen in how they encourage their children to discuss their feelings or emotions when they are sad or upset.
More than half of Americans say there is too little emphasis on encouraging girls to be leaders and stand up for themselves. About 40 percent say girls also aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings nor motivated to do well in school.
Boys, on the other hands, are not encouraged enough to talk about their feelings when they’re sad or upset nor encouraged to do well in school, according to over half of Americans.
3. Political standing plays a huge role in gender roles for boys and girls
“Beyond gender and generation, there are significant partisan gaps in views about raising girls and boys. Democrats are much more in favor of the idea of exposing girls and boys to toys and activities normally associated with the opposite gender,” Pew researchers note.
Democrats and Republicans are somewhat on the same side when it comes to encouraging girls to engage in traditionally-boy dominated activities, but Democrats feel more strongly about this being a good idea (80 percent of Democrats say it’s a good idea compared with about 66 percent of Republicans).
On the other hand, more Republicans than Democrats say it’s a bad thing to encourage young boys to play with toys or participate in activities typically associated with girls. About 78 percent of Democrats say this is a good thing for boys.
As complicated as it may be for adults to navigate the child-rearing process with their young boys and girls, it’s important for parents to stay mentally strong and help their children prepare for challenges they might face.
And as women in the U.S. have been closing in on men when it comes to the gender pay gap and traditionally-male occupations such as those in STEM, there are still many opportunities to come in breaking down gender stereotypes.
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