Date of Conferral

2015

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Education

Advisor

Patricia N. Anderson

Abstract

Literature that depicts females in restrictive roles may limit girls' aspirations and success. Previous studies of award-winning books for young children have found gender-stereotypical role portrayal to be common. The purpose of this qualitative content analysis was to identify the archetypal roles assigned to female characters in picture books read aloud by teachers in the preschool classroom. The conceptual framework for this study was derived from feminist theory and Jungian archetypes. Data were collected in the form of teachers' logs of books they read aloud over a 2-week period. Data were analyzed by employing the 3-read method developed by Madsen, which was revised to assign Jungian archetypes to each female character in a sample of 20 books. According to study results, female characters were portrayed as passive and often silent. Most of the female characters in these books were assigned archetypes typified by low personal agency, passivity, and service to others (orphan, innocent, and caretaker) and none were assigned archetypes associated with innovation (magician, jester, and creator). Of the 106 female characters portrayed in this sample, only 26% were verbal, and of those who spoke, 46% were limited to the one or two words needed to ask for assistance or to offer to serve. Female characters who did advance the plot through dialogue were often in animal form. Gender stereotypes still exist in children's picture books, as evidenced by objectification of females, female servitude, and lack of positive agentic female roles. This study has potential to elicit positive social change, benefiting both boys and girls, through increased awareness of archetypal role portrayal of female characters in picture books and teachers' increased care in selecting read-aloud books with regard to the gender-based messages they send.