Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Tests designed to identify sexual preference, and administered to 8th grade through college-age subjects, have revealed a strong male bias in the responses by both sexes. Perceived similarity to a character (identification) increases attention to, and memory of, sex stereotyped information. Thus, a preference for the male gender would increase the effectiveness of information for males but not for females, since identification is not possible. This study examined preschoolers' identification with an androgynous storybook character. Eighty three- and four-year-old boys and girls from randomly chosen preschools were read a storybook prepared for this study. The storybook controlled for three gender clues. Language clues controlled were pronouns, language style, and oral reading. Illustration clues controlled were possible color associations and physical traits. Activities portrayed were gender-neutral and controlled for the active/passive activity ratio. A stratified sample, based upon gender, received a suggestion of similarity to the character by the phrase "This is a story about a child just like you." The three stages of gender awareness, identity, stability, and constancy, were determined using questions with the subject as referent. This study tested three null hypotheses. There is no significant difference in gender identification by female or male subjects of a gender-neutral character. There is no significant difference in same gender assignment where similarity to character is suggested. There is no significant difference between higher stages of gender awareness and identification of character gender where no suggestion of similarity to subject has been made. An ANOVA analyzed the results of the gender awareness questions for the influence of age and sex. Only age shows a significant (p < .006, 3 df.) influence on the acquisition of gender awareness. A Chi Square analysis of the gender assigned to the character shows a significant (p < .04, 3 df.) influence for sex and age in perceived similarity (same-sex gender assignment). Boys in the study have higher identification at both age levels than do the girls. Three-year-olds of both sexes have higher identification than the four-year-olds. A Chi Square analysis of the gender assigned the character shows a significant (p < .01, 3 df.) influence for the suggestion of similarity and the subjects' sex. The influence is traced to the opposite effect the suggestion of similarity had on the sexes. The boys in the study increase in same-sex gender assignment to the character when similarity is suggested while girls in the study decrease. The population in the gender stability stage was too small to test the final null hypothesis. Others may wish to investigate the cause of the identification imbalance using a larger population. The suggestion of similarity exerted an opposite influence on the sexes, suggesting different experience for girls with the phrase "This is a story about a child just like you." Studies might also investigate sex-role stereotyped behavior patterns and gender assignment.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Teaching

First Advisor

Judith M. Finkelstein

Second Advisor

William Waack


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