Moderators of gender effects on parents' talk to their children: a meta-analysis

Dev Psychol. 1998 Jan;34(1):3-27. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.34.1.3.


Two sets of meta-analyses of studies examining gender effects on parents' observed language with their children were conducted. One looked at studies comparing mothers and fathers in amount of talking, supportive speech, negative speech, directive speech, informing speech, and questions and requests. The other looked at studies comparing mothers' interactions with daughters versus with sons in amount of talking, supportive speech, and directive speech. Across studies, mothers tended to talk more (d = .26), use more supportive (d = .23) and negative (d = .13) speech, and use less directive (d = .19) and informing (d = .15) speech than did fathers. Also, mothers tended to talk more (d = .29) and use more supportive speech (d = .22) with daughters than with sons. Medium or large effect sizes occurred in most analyses when particular moderator variables were taken into account. Effect sizes varied, depending on aspects of the interactive setting, the child's age, sampling and measurement, and publication characteristics. The results are interpreted in relation to a contextual-interactive model of gender typing.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Sex Factors