How are gender stereotypes associated with occupation reflected in the careers of parental figures and mentors in Disney Channel Original Series that have aired since 2000?

Prior to researching, as we all grew up watching Disney Channel in the early 2000s, we were interested to see how these shows may have influenced our own perceptions and biases. During our research, we were shocked to learn about the frequency at which children watch television; it is the strongest source of cultural socialization outside of a child’s own parents. The themes and social interactions portrayed on television are directly linked to what children will deem as normal. Thus, we chose to focus on children’s TV, as the information being conveyed has a stronger influence on their biases and perceptions of gender than it does on adults.

There was an abundance of information about the effects of parental mediation of television and parents’ careers on children, but minimal information about what the careers of fictional parents are portraying and the effect of that on children. Thus, we believe the adults whom younger characters look up to for advice and counsel will reflect on the beliefs of real children. Children’s values are being formed through the respected adults they encounter in real life, so it would be reasonable to assume that the same would apply to the adults they encounter on television. Furthermore, children will assume that they should behave like the role models they see on television. Therefore, if adults of the same gender behave like their gendered stereotypes, children will feel the need to adhere to these stereotypes, and expect those behaviors from their peers.

We chose to focus on shows created after 2000 because we discovered that shows created prior to 2000 frequently relied on characters that were stereotypically masculine or feminine, and we wanted to see if that held true into the turn of the century. We are planning to analyze the data in two ways: the average salary of the jobs held by role models and their job’s alignment with traditional gender stereotypes.

This research matters because the perceptions of gender stereotyping of the future generations are directly impacted by the shows that they watch. Children are easily affected by these stereotypes, and gender norms are already firmly established in their minds by the time they are 5 years old. The first step in eliminating stereotypes is to show the next generation an equal and fair world that doesn’t submit to gender stereotypes. If children are surrounded by stereotypes, they will associate them with normality, and will be less likely to notice inequality in the world and work to change it. People have commentated on the effect of seeing stereotypes on television, but few have analyzed specific shows to see if children are being exposed to stereotypes in the form of the careers of fictional parents. Through this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of how reflective the careers of adults in children’s television are to the real world. We also hope to expose where gender stereotypes are prevalent in television so that audiences can be more proactive about changing them.

Work Cited:

Durkin, Kevin, and Bradley Nugent. “Kindergarten Children’s Gender-Role Expectations for Television Actors.” Sex Roles, vol. 38, no. 5, 1998, pp. 387-402. ProQuest

Witt, Susan. (2000). “The Influence of Television on Children’s Gender Role Socialization.” Childhood Education, 76(5), 322-324.