Gender: Legal and Public-Policy Perspectives
THE CHILD: AN ENCYCLOPEDIC COMPANION, University of Chicago Press, 2009
6 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 1, 2010
This piece, a short entry in The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion, examines the law’s role in shaping children’s gender development. Although parents have broad authority to convey diverse conceptions of gender to their children, gender-role development is remarkably uniform in the United States. In addition to cultural forces and biology, the law participates in this uniform construction of gender by limiting family privacy in the realm of education and abuse and neglect. Public schools make not discriminate on the basis of gender, but they often divide students by gender rather than other characteristics, reinforcing gender as a salient characteristic in children’s lives. This dynamic is particularly prevalent in gender-specific dress codes and sex education programs that focus solely on heterosexual reproduction. Outside of school, state actors may also impose their own views of appropriate gender-role development in custody disputes and abuse and neglect proceedings. Outside of these two general areas of state intervention, the United States largely permits parents to convey their own views of gender to their children, even if those views do not conform to children’s own conceptions of their gender identity.
Keywords: Children, Gender, Family Privacy, Schools, Dress Codes, Heteronormativity, Custody, Abuse, Neglect
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