Do social influences affect children’s decisions?

Do social influences affect children’s decisions?

Primary school pupils aged 7 to 11 have recently been asked to draw their dream jobs in the classroom.

The children are given a sheet of paper and are asked to draw a picture of the job they might want to do in the future.

This project is known as ‘Drawing the Future’ and it aims to explore children’s career aspirations.

This can be advantageous as acknowledging aspirations can help understand the social influences and stereotypes that are impacting children’s decisions.

One of the decisions seen in the classroom is gender. The question is, will the project show the traditionally defined gender roles in children’s drawings?

A recent  TV programme No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? showed that children position themselves in gender-specific roles by the toys they are given to play with.

Gender roles can also be visible when it comes to selecting favourite subjects. In a recent survey, boys were seen to prefer maths, science and computing whereas girls favoured arts and humanities. The survey also suggested that girls viewed careers such as engineering and plumbing as a ‘boys job’

The survey further suggested that children can be further influenced by parents. ‘In the survey, 65 percent of parents with girls were confident in their daughter baking without any adult help or supervision – but this proportion dropped to just 46 percent for those with boys’

Parents are also seen as role models when it comes to career suggestions and their professions might also be a key influencer.

Another factor of influence is the media.

Advertising has reinforced objectification and gender roles.  As a result, this can restrict the choices and aspirations of young children.

It’s not just adverts, toys, clothes and books that have gender-specific messages. Toy catalogues for example, expect girls to be interested in dolls and beauty toys whereas boys to be interested in building, fighting and racing toys.

Influence of peers, parents, and the media seem to have an impact which could lead to building gender divides and reinforcing children to conform to certain career aspirations.

If we removed these influences and let children decide for themselves would we see more girls interested in STEM subjects?  Could this also give more children from working-class backgrounds more opportunities?

It would be interesting to see what the children would draw for this project if there were no social influences.

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