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Discussion paper

Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents

Gender identity Gender differences Violence against women Parenting and guardianship Work-life balance Australia
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apo-nid182626.pdf 670.44 KB

Parents and children alike are immersed in a social and cultural environment that produces and perpetuates gender stereotypes – clothing, toys, television shows, books, friends and extended family members all communicate messages, explicitly and implicitly, about what is considered ‘appropriate’ for girls and boys. While this wider context has a significant influence on young children’s developing understanding of gender, research confirms that families, and in particular parents, are young children’s first and primary source of information and learning about gender.

This is why Our Watch, with support from Australian accessories brand MIMCO, has chosen to focus on the potential for parents of young children to challenge restrictive gender stereotypes and roles, a key driver of violence against women. Parents of young children can play a powerful role in helping to drive the generational cultural change required to see an end to violence against women.

In early 2017, Our Watch conducted a survey to ask parents of children from 0 to 3 years old what they think about gender equality and violence against women, how they divide key household tasks and childrearing responsibilities within their family, and whether they believe that gender has an impact on their children.

The survey suggests there is a positive role for Our Watch and others to play in supporting parents of young children to practice putting such strategies in place as a way to both support their aspirations of gender equality for their children and help challenge the rigid and harmful gender stereotypes that drive violence against women.

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