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Focus on strengths that mothers exercise to protect children from domestic abuse – study

“A strengths-based approach is essential if we are to move towards more positive and empowered practices of safety and protection. Sadly, we cannot remove women and children from these terrible scenarios without taking a good look at the society which tolerates domestic abuse and blames women for being victimized.”

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As emerging data shows an alarming rise of domestic violence during the pandemic, researchers at the University of South Australia are urging practitioners to look beyond clinical observations and focus on the strengths that mothers exercise to protect their children from domestic abuse.

The call follows UniSA research that upends the perception that abused women are unable to adequately protect their children, instead revealing the ways that women think and act to shield their children from abuse, often at the expense of their own personal safety.

In the past 12 months, more than 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the globe, were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. In Australia alone, one in six (or 1.6 million women) experienced physical or sexual violence with 80 per cent experiencing coercive control by a current or previous partner since the age of 15. More than a quarter of the women said that children in their care had witnessed this violence and abuse.

Lead researcher and social worker, UniSA’s Dr. Fiona Buchanan, says practitioners need to recognize mothers’ protective behavior if they are to work towards increasing safety for women and children living in abusive environments.

“Far too often, women are perceived as passive victims of domestic abuse, who while enduring unconscionable abuse, are unable to protect their own children,” Buchanan says. “But what many practitioners don’t realize is that these women are protecting their children in many unseen ways, that hope to reduce the likelihood of an abusive partner lashing out.”

The mothers in the research talked about the things they did to avoid conflict with their partners, things like controlling the home environment – e.g. making sure dinner was ready and on the table; ensuring the children were clean and quiet; and by making sure the house was neat and tidy.

“By trying to pre-empt abuse, they sought to limit their partner’s aggressive outbursts, effectively managing his mood and behaviour to safeguard their children’s wellbeing.”

The study also showed that mothers intentionally tried to ‘keep the peace’ by purposely avoiding conflict with aggressive partners.

“Protective behaviors could span anything from keeping the children out of harm’s way when they thought an assault was likely to occur, to putting themselves physically close to their abuser to try and placate him,” Buchanan says.

“In this instance, despite wanting to put distance between them and their violent partner, they placed themselves closer to the danger, arguably increasing risk to themselves in order to reduce the risk to the children.”

Using interviews and focus groups UniSA’s Buchanan and Professor Nicole Moulding explored the lived experiences of 16 women who had mothered children in domestic abuse, hoping to better understand their thoughts, feelings and actions during that time. Each of the women had left their abusive partner at least one year prior to participating in the study.

Buchanan warns that practitioners who rely on attachment theory (the observed emotional bonds between children and caregivers) in child protection practice are at risk of overlooking invisible acts of protective agency.

“Despite the popularity of attachment theory in child protection, it does not offer much guidance about supporting women and children living in abusive home environments, especially as it categorizes the child-mother relationship without context,” Buchanan says. “Clinical observation downplays the protective role of mothers in abusive relationships and promotes a notion of ‘bad mothering’.

There is also no evidence to assume that abused women are worse mothers.

“Instead of identifying deficits and assigning blame, practitioners should seek to understand the invisible behaviors that women engage in behind closed doors to protect their children from abuse,” Buchanan says. “A strengths-based approach is essential if we are to move towards more positive and empowered practices of safety and protection. Sadly, we cannot remove women and children from these terrible scenarios without taking a good look at the society which tolerates domestic abuse and blames women for being victimized.”

Other domestic abuses statistics noted by the study:

  • On average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner
  • One in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15
  • 80 per cent of women in domestic abuse situations experience coercive control
  • One in five women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15
  • Almost 40 per cent of women continue to experience violence from a partner while temporarily separated
  • One in six women have experienced stalking since the age of 15
  • Domestic and family violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and their children.

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Catholic school in Iloilo says homosexuality is immoral, a ground for expulsion

Assumption School-Iloilo has released a policy that defined homosexuality as an immoral act that could lead to the expulsion of students. Following the condemnation of its anti-LGBTQIA policy, the school claimed it is within its rights to adopt a discriminatory policy, using the self-contradictory “hate the sin-love the sinner” argument.

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Anti-LGBTQIA occurrence in Iloilo City.

Assumption School-Iloilo has released a policy that defined homosexuality as an immoral act that could lead to the expulsion of students. This policy is included in the school’s “contract” (i.e. Acceptance/Conformity to Definition of Immorality and the Sanction Imposed) with parents and guardians of students who enroll for the upcoming school year.

The policy is specifically included on page 92, which states: “Immorality which refers to acts that are contrary to Catholic morals, teachings and values as defined, described and/or discussed in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), including but not limited to… homosexuality…”

Assumption School-Iloilo adds: “Immorality is considered a grave offense sanctionable by dropping from the rolls following due process. The posting in social media of acts constituting immorality as described herein besmirches the name and reputation of Assumption Iloilo which reserves the right to take legal steps to defend its name and reputation.”

Iloilo City actually has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance No. 2018-090, with Sec. III.(2) “Act of Discrimination” defining as discriminatory “refusing or failing to accept any person for admission as a student in any public or private education and/or vocational institution, or by subjecting said student to terms and conditions such as suspension or expulsion in the said institution which are not imposed on applicants or students similarly circumstanced as him, or limiting the access of the student to any benefit or privilege provided by said institution, by reason of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation…”

Lambasting the Catholic institution’s discriminatory policy, LGBTQIA community leaders released a collective statement stating: “When an educational institution values its name and reputation over upholding the lives and dignity of its students, it shows that it upholds bigotry instead of justice, hate instead of compassion… The conforme is now proof of the standing policy of the institution on homosexuality. It is hypocritical to propose measures on immorality in an institution, while blatantly disallowing the existence of persons of diverse SOGIESC, and denying their right to education within the said institution. As it stands, this discrimination has been the framework which led to young people and students not only feeling unsafe in the institution, but also being stripped of their fundamental human rights.”

Following the condemnation of its anti-LGBTQIA policy, Assumption School-Iloilo released a statement using the self-contradictory “hate the sin-love the sinner” argument.

It stated that “the homosexual condition ‘must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity’ and ‘every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’.”

However, in the same statement, it still actually defended the discriminatory policy, claiming that it is “within its rights to adopt a definition of what constitutes immorality in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

The institution even defined “immorality”, which it said “refers to acts that are contrary to Catholic morals, teachings and values as defined, described and/or discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), including but not limited to fornication, pornography, prostitution, engaging in premarital sexual relations, rape, homosexuality, adultery, incest, sexual abuse, ‘free union’, ‘trial marriages’, ‘live-in arrangement’ and unions outside marriages… Immorality is considered a grave offense sanctionable by dropping from the rolls following due process.”

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Love Affairs

Small towns have highest risk of intimate partner violence

“We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

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Despite common perceptions that big cities have more violence, women living in small towns are most at risk of violence from current or former spouses and partners, according to a recent study by Washington State University criminologist Kathryn DuBois.

For the study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DuBois analyzed the responses of more than 570,000 women from the National Crime Victimization Survey from 1994 to 2015. She found that women from small towns were 27% more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) than women from the center of big cities and 42% more likely than suburban women.

“In criminology, we often have this urban bias. We assume big cities are the worst and paint other places as idyllic,” said DuBois, associate professor at WSU Vancouver. “We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

The National Crime Victimization Survey collects information through a large sample of interviews about a range of personal crimes committed every year. Part of the intent of the survey is to uncover the “dark figure” of crime, DuBois said, those crimes that may not be reported to police.

While the survey defines many locations as simply urban or rural, DuBois analyzed the data by population density to delineate urban, suburban, small town and rural areas. Small towns were defined as urbanized portions of non-metropolitan counties with populations up to 50,000. They are distinct from suburban areas that exist just outside of big cities.

“Many surveys assume that everyone in those nonmetropolitan counties are the same, but there’s a lot more heterogeneity across them,” Dubois said.

DuBois originally undertook the study to try and reconcile the inconsistency between national surveys, which typically find rural areas have less or similar rates of IPV to urban areas – and ethnographic research, in-depth qualitative studies that have indicated that rural isolation can exacerbate gender-based violence.

Many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

While the study data cannot reveal the reasons behind the violence, the finding about the high rate of IPV in small towns indicates that there may be a different set of factors at play, DuBois said.

“Small towns have populations large enough to have the difficult problems of a big city, while at the same time these are some of the hardest hit areas economically, so they don’t have specialized services and policing needed to deal with family violence,” DuBois said.

IPV is also a big issue in the LGBTQIA community, even if this doesn’t particularly get as much attention.

In June 2020, for instance, a study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and IPV were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.” In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

Earlier, in July 2018, another study noted that abuse among gay couples stems from stress factors that also apply to heterosexual couples, such as money issues, unemployment, and drug abuse. However, gay couples are said to face additional stress from internalized homophobia, which may also contribute to IPV.

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Men scoring higher on ‘man box’ scale are prone to violence, mental illness

Men who harbor more harmful attitudes about masculinity — including beliefs about aggression and homophobia — also tend toward bullying, sexual harassment, depression and suicidal thoughts.

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Researchers at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Promundo-US found that men who harbor more harmful attitudes about masculinity – including beliefs about aggression and homophobia – also tend toward bullying, sexual harassment, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The study, published today in Preventive Medicine, is based on the “Man Box” Scale developed by Promundo-US, the US member of a global consortium dedicated to promoting gender equality and ending violence, as a way to measure harmful norms and stereotypes about masculinity. The 15-item scale encompasses themes such as self-sufficiency, acting tough, physical attractiveness, rigid masculine gender roles, hypersexuality, and control.

“While there has been a lot of discussion around harmful masculinities in the media and in the research community, no one has agreed on a standardized way to measure the concept,” explains Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at UPMC Children’s Hospital.

The idea of the Man Box originated in the 1980s. Paul Kivel and his colleagues at the Oakland Men’s Project developed the “Act Like a Man Box” activity as a way to discuss how society tells men they ought to be. Since then, activist Tony Porter helped popularize the term in a TEDWomen Talk and his book “Breaking Out of the ‘Man Box’: The Next Generation of Manhood.”

Recently, the issue of harmful masculinities received widespread attention in response to the 2018 American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men, which presented a series of steps health care practitioners should take to improve the psychological care of boys and men.

The APA was reacting to growing evidence showing that men who strongly align with more harmful masculine gender norms have poorer health outcomes, such as depression and suicidal ideation. In addition, these men perpetrate violence against others at much higher rates. Research shows that boys and men, just like girls and women, are affected by societal norms, and those norms can have real consequences.

Using 2016 data from more than 3,600 men ages 18-30 across three countries, this study found that higher Man Box Scale scores were associated with up to five times higher rates of verbal, online or physical bullying, as well as sexual harassment. Men with higher scores also were about twice as likely to experience depression or suicidal ideation.

Men who harbor more harmful attitudes about masculinity – including beliefs about aggression and homophobia – also tend toward bullying, sexual harassment, depression and suicidal thoughts.

“These findings highlight how detrimental harmful masculinities can be to the people who endorse them, as well as their peers, families and communities at large,” said lead author Amber Hill, Ph.D., fourth-year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “It’s important to remember that individuals of all genders are influenced and impacted by the heteronormative society that we live in.”

To help clinicians more efficiently monitor their male patients’ attitudes, the researchers developed a shorter version of the survey including only the five items that had the strongest associations with violence and poor mental health:

  1. A man shouldn’t have to do household chores.
  2. Men should use violence to get respect if necessary.
  3. A real man should have as many sexual partners as he can.
  4. A man who talks a lot about his worries, fears and problems shouldn’t really get respect.
  5. A gay guy is not a “real man.”

“We have found a way to measure the concept of the ‘Man Box,’ which allows us to clearly see that when men embrace stereotypical ideas about manhood, they’re also more likely to harm the well-being of others, as well as impact their own health in adverse ways,” said Gary Barker, Ph.D., president and C.E.O. of Promundo-US. “As health care providers, researchers and public health workers, we now have a valid tool in our pockets to help us measure progress toward changing harmful stereotypes and advancing both gender equality and healthier versions of masculinity.”

Additional authors on the study include Galen Switzer, Ph.D., Lan Yu, Ph.D., of the Pitt School of Medicine; Brian Heilman, M.A., Ruti Levtov, Ph.D., and Kristina Vlahovicova, M.S., of Promundo-US; Dorothy Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Robert W.S. Coulter, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health.

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NEWSMAKERS

Academic achievement is influenced by how pupils ‘do’ gender at school

Pupils’ achievements at school are often shaped by the way that they ‘act out’ specific gender roles, according to a new study which warns against over-generalising the gender gap in education.

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Pupils’ achievements at school are often shaped by the way that they ‘act out’ specific gender roles, according to a new study which warns against over-generalising the gender gap in education.

The study, by researchers at the University of Cambridge, suggests that young people’s attainment is linked to their ideas about what it means to be male or female. Those who defy traditional gender stereotypes appear to do better in the classroom.

Annual GCSE results in the UK, in common with many western countries, typically show that boys lag behind girls academically, but the research argues that this broad pattern masks a more nuanced picture. In particular, the researchers warn that a large sub-group of girls, who conform fairly rigidly to some traditional ‘feminine’ norms, could be academically at-risk. They point out that these girls are often ‘invisible’ in broad surveys of attainment by gender that show girls performing well as a group.

Photo by Banter Snaps from Unsplash.com

The researchers examined the English and Maths results of almost 600 GCSE candidates at four schools in England. On average, the girls did significantly better in English, while boys were slightly better at Maths. Girls outperformed boys overall.

But the study then went a step further, analysing sub-groups of boys and girls according to how they expressed their gender identity. This revealed that around half of the girls displayed ‘maladaptive patterns of motivation, engagement and achievement’. By contrast, around two-thirds of boys were motivated, engaged and did well in exams. The pupils’ academic performance corresponded closely to their sense of gender.

Young people’s attainment is linked to their ideas about what it means to be male or female. Those who defy traditional gender stereotypes appear to do better in the classroom.

Dr Junlin Yu, a researcher at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, said: “There has been a lot of justifiable concern about low attainment among boys, but we really need to move on from looking at averages, and ask which specific groups of boys and girls are falling behind. These findings suggest that part of the answer is linked to how pupils ‘do’ gender at school.”

The study asked pupils to complete questionnaires which measured their motivation and engagement, and also examined how far they conformed to certain gender ‘norms’.

These norms were drawn from two widely-used scales that identify the characteristics which people in western countries consider ‘typically’ masculine or feminine. The supposedly ‘masculine’ traits were emotional control, competitiveness, aggression, self-reliance, and risk-taking. The ‘feminine’ traits were thinness, an interest in appearance, concern with relationships, and an inclination towards domesticity.

In reality, most people exhibit a combination of masculine and feminine traits and the researchers found that pupils typically belonged to one of seven gender profiles that blended these characteristics. They classified these as:

  • ‘Resister boys’ (69% of boys): typically resist traditional ideas about masculinity.
  • ‘Cool guys’ (21%): competitive risk-takers, but concerned with appearance and romantic success.
  • ‘Tough guys’ (10%): have an emotionally ‘hard’ image, self-reliant.
  • ‘Relational girls’ (32% of girls): shun appearance norms, comfortable connecting with others emotionally.
  • ‘Modern girls’ (49%): concerned with appearance, but also self-reliant and emotionally distant.
  • ‘Tomboys’ (12%): uninterested in feminine qualities, often regarded as ‘one of the lads.’
  • ‘Wild girls’ (7%): embrace masculine behaviours, but also display an exaggeratedly ‘feminine’ appearance.

These profiles were then cross-referred with the pupils’ GCSE results.

On average, the sample group performed as international trends predict. Girls had an average grade of 6.0 (out of 9) in English, compared with the boys’ average of 5.3. In Maths boys averaged 5.9; slightly higher than the girls’ 5.5.

But the researchers also found strong correlations between the specific gender profiles and patterns of engagement, motivation, and attainment. The two groups who resisted conventional gender norms – resister boys and relational girls – were found to be ‘better academically adjusted’ and typically did well in exams. The lowest overall performers were the ‘cool guys’ and ‘tough guys’.

This significantly affected the average patterns of attainment by gender. In English, for example, relational girls far outperformed all other pupils in the cohort (averaging 6.3), almost single-handedly raising the girls’ average.

Teachers and parents can help by encouraging pupils to feel that they won’t be ridiculed or marginalized if they don’t conform to traditional gender roles. The findings certainly suggest that resistance to stereotypes is fast becoming less the exception, and more the rule.

The ‘modern’ and ‘wild’ girls typically had more mediocre GCSE results. More worryingly, these groups also displayed signs of low engagement and motivation: they gave up easily when faced with difficult tasks, and generally put less effort into their work. Collectively, these girls represented 56% of the total, but their underachievement was partially obscured by the high attainment average for girls.

The study suggests that one reason for the close correspondence between gender profile and academic achievement is that adolescents tend to express strong and inflexible ideas about gender, which influences their attitude towards school. For example, ‘cool guys’, who prize risk-taking and winning, consistently admitted to not trying hard at school – probably because doing so maintained the illusion that they would succeed if they put in more effort.

Attitudes towards gender probably also influence pupils’ engagement with certain subjects. Previous studies have, for example, shown that Maths is often perceived as ‘male’. Tellingly, within the sample, tomboys – girls who rejected ‘feminine’ traits – earned higher grades than the other girls in Maths.

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski from Unsplash.com

The study’s main recommendation is that efforts to close the gender gap in attainment need to focus less on ‘girls versus boys’ and more on these nuanced profiles. However, the researchers also suggest that schools could support pupils by encouraging them to think beyond traditional gender stereotypes.

“Among boys in particular, we found that those who resist gender norms were in the majority, but at school it often doesn’t feel that way,” Yu said. “Teachers and parents can help by encouraging pupils to feel that they won’t be ridiculed or marginalized if they don’t conform to traditional gender roles. Our findings certainly suggest that resistance to stereotypes is fast becoming less the exception, and more the rule.”

The research appears in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

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Health & Wellness

Experiences of loneliness may differ by age

Some factors were found to be associated with loneliness across all age groups. These included living alone, frequency of neighbour contact, psychological distress, and psychological and emotional wellbeing. The strongest association with loneliness was found for those who felt excluded from society.

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Loneliness in adult life is experienced differently depending on age, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health. The research concludes that there can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to reducing loneliness, as factors associated with it, such as contact with friends and family, perceived health or employment, may differ across the phases of the adult life span.

Thanée Franssen, the corresponding author, said: “The majority of studies focusing on loneliness have thus far been performed among specific age groups, such as the elderly or teenagers, or individuals with specific health conditions. To our knowledge, none of these studied the factors associated with loneliness among adults and how these change as people age.”

A team of researchers at Maastricht University and in the Public Health Service South-Limburg in the Netherlands used data collected in the Netherlands from September to December 2016 to examine associations between demographic, social and health-related factors and loneliness in 6,143 young (19-34 years), 8,418 early middle-aged (35-49 years) and 11,758 late middle-aged adults (50-65 years).

Overall, 10,309 (44.3%) individuals reported experiencing loneliness. Among young adults, 2,042 (39.7%) individuals reported feelings of loneliness, compared to 3,108 (43.3%) early-middle aged adults, and 5,159 late middle-aged adults (48.2%).

Some factors were found to be associated with loneliness across all age groups. These included living alone, frequency of neighbour contact, psychological distress, and psychological and emotional wellbeing. The strongest association with loneliness was found for those who felt excluded from society.

Some factors associated with loneliness were found to be present in specific age groups only. Young adults showed the strongest association between contact frequency with friends and loneliness. Educational level was associated with loneliness among young adults only, while an association between employment status and loneliness was found solely among early middle-aged adults. Frequency of family contact was associated with loneliness only among early and late middle-aged adults. For late middle-aged adults only, perceived health was associated with loneliness.

The authors suggest that people may feel lonely if what is the norm for their age group, such as completing school, being employed, having a partner or having children, deviates from their actual situation. As different factors are perceived to be the norm for different age groups, this may explain some of the difference in factors associated with loneliness between age groups.

Thanée Franssen said: “The identification of the factors associated with loneliness is necessary to be able to develop and target appropriate interventions. Unfortunately, most of the current interventions seem to be limited in their effect. A possible reason for this may be that most interventions for adults are universal. Results of this study showed that interventions should be developed for specific age groups.”

The authors caution that some factors that may affect people’s perception of loneliness, such as relationship quality, were not included in the current study, as they were not part of the original data collection. Due to the cross-sectional nature of the study, it was not possible to establish cause and effect.

Thanée Franssen said: “Our results also suggest that during the current COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of loneliness among adults may be impacted in different ways according to the important factors of their life phase. For example, young adults are not able to interact with their friends or classmates face to face anymore. This may need to be taken into account when considering the impact on loneliness of the current pandemic.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Jobs for the boys: How children give voice to gender stereotyped job roles

The research found that for stereotypically male jobs, both sexes spontaneously masculinised their voices, by lowering pitch and resonance, and they also feminised their voices for stereotypically female occupations, by raising their pitch and resonance.

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Children, and especially boys, show stronger stereotyping about masculine and feminine jobs than previously suspected, a study by the University of Sussex reveals.

New research reveals the extent to which girls exaggerated their gendered voices to imitate workers in different professions dropped off at around seven but continues to increase beyond that age with boys.

Boys also used an overtly masculine voice even when imitating workers in gender-neutral roles, the study found.

Research in the field of gender stereotypes usually involves asking study participants what they think about men and women doing different jobs, but there are concerns this can mask people’s true beliefs because their answers may be biased by their desire to conform.

So instead, University of Sussex psychologists tapped into children’s unconscious stereotypes by asking them to speak in the voices of people with different occupations.

The research found that for stereotypically male jobs, both sexes spontaneously masculinised their voices, by lowering pitch and resonance, and they also feminised their voices for stereotypically female occupations, by raising their pitch and resonance.

The academics are advising authors and children’s TV writers to be extra vigilant about associating job roles too strongly with a specific gender, to avoid children associating certain jobs exclusively with a given gender. They also call attention to the voice as an untapped resource to monitor and potentially challenge implicit stereotypes in children.

Dr Valentina Cartei, research fellow at the University of Sussex’s School of Psychology, said: “Our study found that boys were especially likely to accentuate the vocal masculinity or femininity of people doing different jobs. This pattern suggests that children have differential evaluations of males and females engaging in stereotypical and counter-stereotypical occupations.”

If we are to successfully challenge these occupational stereotypes, then as well as having depictions of both male and female nurses, we need occupational role models who vary in vocal masculinity and femininity, such as male nurses with both low and high vocal pitch.

In the study, children between the ages of five and ten took part in a voice production task where they were provided with descriptions of traditionally male, female and gender neutral professions and asked to give voices to people in each of those jobs.

In order to measure children’s beliefs about gender stereotypes using the more conventional approach, the researchers also asked them to complete a questionnaire which asked them directly about men and women carrying out particular job roles.

The researchers created a simple Index of Stereotypicality which they believe could be used to quantify implicit occupational stereotyping in children.

Used alongside software that can extract pitch from the recording of children’s voices, the academics believe the index could be a useful tool for teachers and practitioners interested in challenging stereotypes.

Professor Jane Oakhill said: “The strength of stereotypicality based on vocal pitch revealed stereotypes that were not found in children’s direct responses to the conventional questions about men and women doing different jobs. This suggests that children continue to entertain gender stereotypes even if they are not prepared to say so explicitly.

“If we are to successfully challenge these occupational stereotypes, then as well as having depictions of both male and female nurses, we need occupational role models who vary in vocal masculinity and femininity, such as male nurses with both low and high vocal pitch. Unconscious bias training should also include voice cues to help teachers and parents become aware of and challenge biases about gender stereotypes in relation to particular jobs.”

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