This award was provided as part of NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (SPRF) program. The goal of the SPRF program is to prepare promising, early career doctoral-level scientists for scientific careers in academia, industry or private sector, and government. SPRF awards involve two years of training under the sponsorship of established scientists and encourage Postdoctoral Fellows to perform independent research. NSF seeks to promote the participation of scientists from all segments of the scientific community, including those from underrepresented groups, in its research programs and activities; the postdoctoral period is considered to be an important level of professional development in attaining this goal. Each Postdoctoral Fellow must address important scientific questions that advance their respective disciplinary fields. This postdoctoral fellowship award provides a young scientist with the opportunity to investigate the early gender development in children, with particular focus on the relative contributions of early parent socialization and children's internal sense of gender identity. It is crucial to better understand the risk factors that lead to poor developmental outcomes and to develop appropriate prevention and intervention strategies.
Prominent theories of gender development have discussed the degree to which gender identity results from an internal sense of gender and socialization processes. However, tests of these theories have been limited because, for most children, internal gender identity and environmental socialization substantially overlap, rendering it impossible to distinguish the relative impact of each factor on gender development. Therefore, this project will provide a critical test of extant theory by examining gender development among children with atypical patterns of gender development. Specifically, this grant supports the investigation of whether established theories (e.g., Social Learning Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, Gender Schema Theory) can account for a wider range of human gender experiences. The project will involve asking 250, 4- to 6-year olds and their parents to complete a battery of measures assessing early and current gender socialization, children's internal sense of gender identity, children's gendered behavior (e.g., preferences for gender-typed toys) and measures of related gender cognition (e.g., memory for gender-consistent vs. inconsistent behaviors). These measures will allow the researchers to examine the relative contributions of internal gender identity and socialization and ultimately provide a more comprehensive theory accounting for early gender development.