Prenatal Sex Role Stereotypes: Gendered Expectations and Perceptions of (Expectant) Parents

People assign attributes to a different degree to other persons depending on whether these are male or female (sex role stereotypes). Such stereotypes continue to exist even in countries with lower gender inequality. The present research tested the idea that parents develop sex role consistent expectations of their babies’ attributes based on fetal sex (by ultrasound diagnostic), as well as gendered perceptions of their recently newborn babies. A total of 304 dyads of predominantly White expecting parents from Germany were followed over the course of pregnancy until after the birth and completed a sex role inventory on their babies’ expected (before birth) as well as perceived traits (after birth). Specifically, they rated to what extent they expected their babies to have normatively feminine traits (e.g., soft-spoken and warm) and normatively masculine traits (e.g., independent and assertive) twice before birth (first half of pregnancy, six weeks before due date) and to what extent they perceived their baby to have these traits eight weeks after birth. The results suggested that fathers held gendered expectations and perceptions, whereas mothers did not. These results suggest that male and female babies are likely to encounter sex role stereotypes about their alleged attributes as soon as their birth.

Imhoff, Roland and Lisa Hoffmann 2023: Prenatal Sex Role Stereotypes: Gendered Expectations and Perceptions of (Expectant) Parents, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Springer.

The article is available here.