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  • Cited by 82
  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: January 2010

2 - The socialization of gender differences in emotional expression: Display rules, infant temperament, and differentiation


The socialization of gender differences in emotional expression is a complex process, and has some surprising, even counter-intuitive aspects. For example, I will present data to show that even when parents socialize their sons and daughters in the same ways, such as with equal levels of nurturance, their sons and daughters may respond with different patterns of emotional expression. In this chapter, I will focus my discussion of emotion socialization on three areas: the role played by cultural display rules and imitation; the impact of gender differences in infant temperament and language development on socialization; and the sometimes surprising influence of processes of differentiation between mothers' and children's emotional expressiveness. I will theorize that each of these processes plays an important role in the eventual divergence of emotional expression for the two sexes, and will present new data addressing processes of differentiation in the emotional expression of mothers and their children.

Although I acknowledge that biological differences between infant males and females play a role in shaping their emotional development, I argue that the subsequent emergence of gender differences in emotional expressiveness is heavily influenced by cultural values and attitudes concerning gender roles. Cultural values influence caretakers to respond to biological gender differences in particular ways. Perhaps the most provocative part of my argument is that socializing the two sexes to express different emotions serves to maintain a bifurcation of gender roles, and to maintain the power and status differences between women and men.