Eleanor Maccoby is a renowned psychologist, with publications dating from 1957 to today. She specializes on the socialization of children, developmental change in personality and behavior, relationships of couples after divorce, and parent-child interactions. In this review I focus on her work examining the socialization of children, and parent-child interactions. I link her work between the socialization of children, from their interactions with their parents and with other children, to the interactions of adults. There is a clear parallel between the sex-typed skills learned in child-interactions and those conveyed in adult interactions.
Maccoby looks at the development of gender through interaction: “social behavior is never a function of the individual alone. It is the function of the interaction between two or more persons” (Maccoby 1990). Maccoby’s earlier work dealt with parental effects on children’s gender identity, focusing on the sex stereotypes that parents instill in their children through interaction.
Rothbart and Maccoby (1966) studied parents’ reactions to specific child behaviors, especially those regarded as sex-typed, like dependency and aggression, in hopes of understanding what accounts for sex differences in behavior. Social-learning theory addresses the finding, that girls display more dependent behaviors than boys, and boys display more aggressive behaviors than girls. And that dependent behaviors are less rewarded for males, just as aggressive behaviors are less rewarded for females (Rothbart and Maccoby 1966). Using social-learning theory, and assuming that the family constitutes the “culture” into which a young child is exposed, Rothbart and Maccoby (1966) predicted that both parents would reinforce dependency more strongly in girls, and aggression more strongly in boys.
Rothbart Maccoby (1966) tested their prediction by placing parents in a hypothetical situation with a child, asking them to record their reactions and responses to statements made by the child, such as: “Daddy (or Mommy), come look at my puzzle…Daddy, help me…Baby, you can’t play with me. You’re too little…Leave my puzzle alone or I’ll hit you in the head!” (Maccoby and Rothbart 1966). The “child” in this situation was a recording of a 4 year old’s voice. Parents were told either that the child was a girl, or that it was a boy. Differences in their responses were examined, scoring the permissiveness of the parent. The parents were then given a questionnaire to measure the extent to which they differentiated between the sexes by either (a) feeling boys and girls are different on selected characteristics, or (b) feeling boys and girls should differ on these characteristics (Rothbart and Maccoby 1966).
Rothbart and Maccoby (1966) hypothesized that parents showing high differentiation between boys and girls would show greater differences in reaction to the boy’s voice...