TELEVISION commercials are giving children a distorted view on modern gender roles, according to research carried out at the University of Worcester.

Research undertaken by senior lecturers Dr Barbara Mitra and Jenny Lewin-Jones has revealed how adverts aimed at children are continuing to stereotype boys and girls in the same way they did 30 years ago.

“It was interesting to compare adverts from today with those of 30 years ago and to see there is little change in the ideologies,” said Dr Mitra.

“Commercials classified as male tend to show actors engaged in more physically active behaviour, with a greater element of aggressive behaviour.

“In contrast, commercials aimed at females tend to show domestic settings and more passive behaviour.”

The researchers said this stereotyping is giving children mixed messages on gender roles as the rest of society aims to teach them about equality. Dr Mitra, a senior lecturer in media and cultural studies, said: “Children’s literature and schools are very careful not to give stereotypical views of women in the kitchen.

“However, television commercials are full of stereotypes which may feed into children’s subconsciouses.”

As part of their research, Dr Mitra and Ms Lewin-Jones, a senior lecturer in English language and modern foreign languages, interviewed 15 children, aged between four and 11. They also spoke to parents.

Ms Lewin-Jones said: “When speaking to parents it was interesting to hear that many had tried to counter this gender stereotyping in their choice of toys or what they told their children. However, the impact of the commercials seemed to override this.”

The research found that children from as young as four are able to identify which adverts were aimed at boys and which were aimed at girls and were forming opinions about each gender’s roles.

Dr Mitra and Ms Lewin-Jones’ research, Gender Roles in Television Commercials and Primary School Children in the UK, has been published in the Journal of Children and Media.