Effects of Sex Stereotypes: Causal & Moral Attributions for Child Physical Abuse

Effects of Sex Stereotypes: Causal & Moral Attributions for Child Physical Abuse poster

Audio Presentation:

Research Authorship:

Reema Sabella, Rachel Woolard, LouAnne Hawkins, & Christopher Leone

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Christopher Leone | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Psychology


According to Fiske (2018), sex stereotypes are characteristics ascribed to men (e.g., aggressive) and women (e.g., nurturant) as well as boys (tough) and girls (vulnerable. Stereotypes provide a basis for social judgments (Macrae & Quadflieg, 2010). For example, sex stereotypes play a role in individuals’ attitudes about child physical abuse (Leone, Hawkins, & Bright, 2018). We investigated whether these stereotypes played a role in attributions that individuals make about parents and children involved in physical altercations. Participants read scenarios in which mothers or fathers slapped either daughters or sons after those children had been verbally provocative. Participants then indicated whether parents and/or children (a) caused the face-slapping and (b) should be blamed for this behavior. A 2 (mothers vs. fathers) x 2 (daughters vs. sons) ANOVA produced the following effects. Parents were most often seen as the cause of the altercations when parents were fathers and children were daughters (p = .013); both parents were blamed more when children were daughters rather than sons (p = .069). Participants thought boys were more likely than girls to cause these altercations (p = .003); boys and girls were perceived as equally blameworthy (p = .284). In short, these findings are consistent with the stereotypes that (a) girls are weaker than boys, (b) boys are more provocative than girls, and (c) fathers are more aggressive than mothers. Future directions include sampling individuals with children, using other unobtrusive measures of stereotyping (e.g., blood glucose) and identifying moderator variables (e.g., benevolent/hostile sexism).