Background of Study
Advertising to children is an industry worth over £3.5 billion globally in 2019 (Gutmann, Jha, O’Doherty, & Banerji, 2022). That makes it one of the fastest-growing online audiences. Despite this, there are apparent issues with harmful gender stereotypes in adverts that target children. In 2019, the UK’s advertising authority found it expedient to set rules that banned gender stereotypes that are aimed at restricting choices, aspirations, and opportunities for children (CAP News, 2019). This has been quite difficult to enforce because there are difficulties in enforcing these standards accurately. Many children’s adverts continue to show aspects of gender stereotyping that show apparently that the practice continues.
Research Aims and Objectives
The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the psychological roots and nature of gender stereotyping in children’s adverts and its impact on children in Cambridge. This will involve the modelling of a psychological research that studies the topic. The following objectives will be examined:
- The nature of gender stereotypes in children’s adverts
- The psychological drivers of gender stereotypes in children’s adverts
- Impacts of gender stereotypes in children’s adverts on children in Cambridge.
The theory of gender stereotypes, their psychological drivers and their impacts on children’s development and wellbeing have been explained differently by various scholars. Ellemers (2018) identified that there is an objective and subjective element to gender stereotypes. In her study, she identified that there are many biological differences between men and women. However, in today’s just and modern democratic world, these biological differences are not to be used as a justification for barriers against members of any gender. As such, some laws prevent various subjective or discriminatory interpretations or applications of gender differences.
Subjective gender differences are premised on stereotypes that are used to describe, interpret, or justify beliefs that might be discriminatory to members of a specific gender (Ellemers, 2018). The subjective stereotypical views of gender are generally prohibited by law. Therefore, the concept of “fair judgment” and its depiction constitutes a fundamental part of decision-making and the reproduction of content that influence people in society.
Gender stereotypes in the media have also evolved significantly. A 30-year-long study from 1984 to 2014 identified that the most common depictions of gender stereotypes in adverts include:
- Occupations and
- Physical Characteristics (Haines, Deaux, & Lofaro, 2016).
These are areas that are used to depict one gender as weaker and another as stronger. The five-pointers are also used to degrade or subjugate one gender against another. This is something that creates relevant pointers that are used to drive desired profits and goals by advertisers and marketers.
Among children, various variables are used to promote and enhance gender stereotypes in media content including:
- Growth mindset
- Gender-fair beliefs and
- Expectations for children (Lee, Lee, Song, Kim, & Bong, 2022).
These are things that children internalise in ways that shape their conception of gender expectations that could limit them or affect them adversely.
This research will involve an empirical study to understand the psychological elements of gender stereotypes among children in Cambridge. This will involve a review of how content is served to them, the gender stereotypes inherent in them, and the impact of these pointers on such children.
The research will be conducted in three stages corresponding to the three objectives, namely:
- Observation of a sample of 10 children’s audiovisual adverts to find elements of gender stereotyping inherent in them. This will include a review of the sample of adverts to ascertain the subjective and discriminatory gender stereotypes involved and how they can be interpreted.
- A review of the psychological drivers of gender stereotypes as they can be found in the traits, roles, behaviours, occupations, and physical characteristics shown in the adverts.
- An interview with an expert on child psychology to understand how these gender stereotypes identified in stages (1) and (2) above, can affect the development of children, namely – their growth mindsets, gender-fair beliefs, and expectations of these children.
Interpretations / Discussions
As identified above, the research will involve two key activities (a) observation of a sample of children’s adverts to critique their psychological drivers of gender stereotypes as they will affect children and (b) an interview with a child psychology expert. The findings will be interpreted in three key phases.
In the first phase, there will be an objective highlighting and evidence gathering on the most significant incidents of gender stereotyping as they occur in the adverts. This will include the observation of the most significant incidents in the adverts that will be documented and depicted appropriately to show the kind of stereotypes they represent.
The second phase will be an interpretation of the psychological factors as they will impress upon children. This includes the five key elements – traits, roles, behaviours, occupations, and physical traits that will affect and influence the children who watch them.
In the third stage, the interview with the child psychology expert will be transcribed. This will be evaluated by underlying key ideas and concepts for an interpretation that explains the most significant elements of their submissions on how these adverts can affect children in the three areas of growth mindsets, gender-fair beliefs, and expectations of these children.
Theorisation or Conclusions
The research will conclude with a direct answer to the research question. This will explain the nature of stereotyping inherent in children’s adverts in the UK in general and how this impacts children in Cambridge. In doing this, the main observations in the three stages of the research will be documented. This will include an explanation of the main and most popular recurrent elements of gender stereotyping that children an exposed to in the city. This will be followed by the way these gender stereotypes are generally depicted and transferred to children. Finally, there will be a presentation of the main submissions of the expert child psychologists on how these gender stereotypes affect children in their growth and development. This will lead to the formation of a theory or conclusion that explains the main elements of the study.