Male and Female Characters in Illustrated Children's Books or

How children's literature contributes to the construction of gender
By Carole Brugeilles, Isabelle Cromer, Sylvie Cromer, Yolande Obadia


Inequalities between men and women are underpinned by gender representations that are “internalized” by individuals and, like all social models, are slow to change. The goal of the present study is to analyze the construction of representations designed for children through illustrated books for 0 to 9 year-olds. The originality of the approach lies in the application of a quantitative method to subjects that had previously been studied from a qualitative angle. The text and the pictures of illustrated books are thus considered as “respondents” answering a survey questionnaire. The analysis of all new illustrated children’s books published in 1994 by means of a modular observation frame covering all the characters made it possible to show, beyond the stereotypes, the combinations of factors influencing the development of the representations: sex, age, role (main, secondary, background character), type of character (human, clothed animal, real animal), parental function and occupation of the characters, as well as the intended readership and the sex of the writers and illustrators.

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