Girls like Pink: Explaining Sex-Typed Occupational Aspirations amongst Young Children
There is a high degree of sex-typing in young children's occupational aspirations and this has consequences for subsequent occupational segregation. Sociologists typically attribute early sex- differences in occupational preferences to gender socialization. Yet we still know surprisingly little about the mechanisms involved in the intergenerational transmission of sex-typical preferences and there is considerable theoretical controversy regarding the role of individual agency in the process of preference formation. This study analyzes the determinants of sex-typed occupational aspirations amongst British children aged between 11 and 15. We specify different mechanisms involved in the transmission of sex-typical preferences and propose an innovative definition of individual agency that is anchored in observable psychological traits linked to self-direction. This allows us to perform a simultaneous test of socialization and agency predictors of occupational sex-typing. We find that parental influences on occupational preferences operate mainly through three distinctive channels: 1) the effect that parental socio-economic resources have on the scope of children's occupational aspirations, 2) children's direct imitation of parental occupations, and 3) children's learning of sex- typed roles via the observation of parental behavior. We also find a strong net effect of children's own psychological predispositions -self-esteem in particular- on the incidence of sex-typical occupational preferences. Yet large differences in the occupational aspirations of girls and boys remain unexplained.
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