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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gender roles are the roles that society expects us to play based on what sex we are.  These roles differ from one society to another, of course, and they also can differ from time to time within the same society.  However, they are always there.  There are always expectations about how we are to act based on what sex we are.

In the United States, for example, gender roles for women are somewhat in flux right now.  Traditionally, the role of women has been to be supportive of men and to nurture their children.  Women have been seen as the “gentler sex” that should generally not try to involve itself too much in public life.  This role has changed a great deal in the last few decades.  Women are now very much expected to have a career.  However, the role that women are expected to play has not completely changed.  Women are still seen as more nurturing and many people still think that it is natural and appropriate for women to do more of the child-rearing and housework than men do.

Gender roles, then, are simply the roles that we are expected to fulfill based on our sex.

lumos-answers | Student

First, let's define what a gender role is. Gender roles are an assumed assumption on how one should behave and act based on their sex. Culture and society dictate what kind of gender roles a person is subjected to as well as create gender stereotypes. An individual’s gender role is their expected behavior based on if they are a boy or girl. For example, the male sex has a gender role placed on them that they should be the ones working and supporting a family. Meanwhile, the female sex has a gender role placed on them that they should stay at home and play the housekeeper. 

Gender roles and identities are a major factor in our development. The influence of gender roles and how culture dictates those roles is apparent throughout the younger ages. Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel accurately theorized that gender identity and perceived roles are developed by children through observations and responses from adults and peers. During infancy and adolescence, children are typically subjected to the cultural norms of gender expectancy. As a result, gender stereotypes are created which become apparent all the way to the adult stages of development.