Society expects different attitudes and behaviors from boys and girls. Gender socialization is the tendency for boys and girls to be socialized differently. Boys are raised to conform to the male gender role, and girls are raised to conform to the female gender or role. A gender role is a set of behaviors, attitudes, and personality characteristics expected and encouraged of a person based on his or her sex. Every culture has different guidelines about what is appropriate for males and females, and family members may socialize the children in gendered ways without consciously striving to do this. Even parents who strive to achieve a less "gendered" parenting style unconsciously reinforce gender roles. Studies from Lauer & Lauer, 1994; Santrock, 1994; Kaplan, 1991 have shown that A child's earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents. Gender is not something we are born with, and not something we have, but something we do (West and Zimmerman 1987) - something we perform (Butler 1990).
Parents can socialize their children into different gender roles with the way the parents manipulate the children by encouraging different types of activity; boys can be boisterous but girls should be sweet and this was studies and written down in Ann Oakely's Sex, Gender, and Society in 1972. According to Oakley, the parents carry out this manipulation by rewarding and punishing the children differently according to gender. Also the language would be different between the males and the females. The males can be spoken to more harshly and the females would be spoken to more softly. This study by Oakley shows how males and females can be socialized differently by their parents and this reinforces their gender roles. Girls have different terms of endearment from boys. Parents can use words like 'my brave soldier' to a boy while words like 'my little princess' are used in relation to girls. And they talk to them differently. Parents use more diminutives (kitty, doggie) when speaking to girls than to boys (Gleason et al. 1994), they use more inner state words (happy, sad) when speaking to girls (Ely et al. 1995), and they use more direct prohibitives (don't do that!) and more emphatic prohibitive (no! no! no!) to boys than to girls (Bellinger and Gleason 1982). Perhaps, one might suggest, the boys need more prohibitions because they tend to misbehave more than the girls. But Bellinger and Gleason found this pattern to be independent of the actual nature of the children's activity, suggesting that the adults and their beliefs about sex difference are far more important here than the children's behavior. Oakely also showed how parents socialized their children into gender roles as she suggested that the parents channeled the childrens' energies into different things like different games and toys even from birth.
Parents have different expectations for their children as early as after birth (Rubin,Provenzano&Luria 1974). Also studies have indicated that even from birth parents buy pink clothes for females and blue clothes for males and this has influenced the children to their gender roles at very early stages of their lives. Even from the hospital, the doctors wear pink caps for girls and blue for boys and the nurseries are designed either pink or blue depending on the gender. When the children get home they meet either blue or pink rooms. The parents therefore use this to socialize the children into gender roles. A study of children's rooms has shown that girls' rooms have more pink, dolls, and manipulative toys; boys' rooms have more blue, sports equipment, tools and vehicles (Pomerleau, Bolduc, Malcuit, & Cossette, 1990). Boys are more likely than girls to have maintenance chores around the house, such as painting and mowing the lawn, while girls are likely to have domestic chores such as cooking and doing the laundry (Basow, 1992). This assignment of household tasks by gender leads children to link certain types of work with gender. Also a child imitating their parents at home has helped with the socialization process. Girls are likely to want to do more housework because they have seen their mothers doing it and boys are likely to want to do more heavy work.
All these processes help in the socialization by parents of children to their gender roles. Parental attitudes towards their children have a strong impact on the child's developing sense of self and self-esteem, with parental warmth and support being key factors for the child (Richards, Gitelson, Petersen, & Hartig, 1991). Often, parents give subtle messages regarding gender and what is acceptable for each gender - messages that are internalized by the developing child (Arliss, 1991). Sex role stereotypes are well established in early childhood. Messages about what is appropriate based on gender are so strong that even when children are exposed to different attitudes and experiences, they will revert to stereotyped choices (Haslett, Geis, & Carter, 1992).