TRADITIONAL OR ANDROGYNOUS? 
USING THE TRAITS OF THE BEM SEX ROLE INVENTORY 
TO DETERMINE GENDER ROLE ORIENTATION OF BASAL READERS

Dissertation Abstract
The University of Akron
Susan Diane Witt
August 1995


 
ABSTRACT

During elementary school, children receive reading instruction primarily through the use of basal readers. Through their portrayal of male and female characters, these basal readers are one means of socializing children into gender roles. Because cognitively developing children assimilate information from the environmental influences around them, the overall message received from their basal readers helps them form ideas about gender role orientation.

A sample of sixteen basal readers from six of the most popular publishers was analyzed to determine whether the readers could be classified as androgynous or traditional in gender role orientation. A method of measurement based on the traits from the Bem Sex Role Inventory was used in the content analysis of the readers. Gender role orientation of five of the publishers was found to be masculine for male characters and androgynous for female characters. Male characters, biographies of males, and illustrations of males outnumbered females for all publishers. In addition, a relationship was found between the number of male and female authors and representation of male and female characters in the readers, with male authors giving much more attention to male characters in the readers and female authors being gender fair to both male and female characters. 

Results of this study indicate that while female characters in basal readers, as written, possess a balance of masculine and feminine traits and are classified as androgynous, male characters possess primarily masculine traits and almost exclusively engage in traditional masculine behaviors. Individuals seeking to use basal readers which are androgynous will find that androgyny is a viable gender role orientation for female characters, but not for males. 

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