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Title: The challenge of fairy tales : eliciting a critical gendered response in young children
Author: Bradford, Jane Elisabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 9357 9970
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2020
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to determine how fairy tale discussions and activities affect children’s responses to literary gendered stereotypes. The children in this investigation were aged between four and six years. Notably, much of the earlier research in this area was carried out over thirty years ago with articulate 7- to 11-year-olds; this study aimed to identify the potential for imaginative transformations in the younger formative group and contribute towards their theoretical and practical knowledge base in the Early Years. A participatory Mosaic approach was adopted to enable the children in small, single-sex and mixed gender groupings, to express their interpretations, experiences and understanding about the story messages as fully and naturally as possible. Information on their family and school cultures was gathered through questionnaires and interviews with parents and teachers in three town state schools and a private Waldorf Steiner kindergarten. The study determined that cultural influences were even stronger and more exaggerated than in the past, with boys using dominant and powerful language, whilst girls used mostly diminishing and understating words. Similar to earlier studies, the children were initially resistant to alternative and subversive gender models; in spite of the stereotypical responses identified, I noted that some children, and boys in particular, were beginning to be receptive to different gendered perspectives following the discussions and activities. This research has shown the urgent need to provide a greater diversity of role models in books at school, and in training and support for adults, particularly fathers, in respect of critical storytelling strategies. But most significantly, this study’s findings have broken new ground in this area and shown that despite cultural pressure to conform to gendered patterns of behaviour, young children can be encouraged to think critically and positively about their own gendered identity and cultural messages.
Supervisor: Coates, Elizabeth ; Minns, Hilary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology ; PZ Childrens literature