CHILDREN show stronger stereotyping of “masculine” and “feminine” jobs than previously thought, a new study has revealed.

Research in the field of gender stereotypes usually involves asking study participants what they think about men and women doing different jobs.

But there are concerns this can mask people’s true beliefs.

So University of Sussex psychologists tapped into children’s unconscious stereotypes by asking them to speak in the voices of people with different occupations.

The researchers chose six stereotypical “gendered” jobs - the “masculine” jobs of builder, lorry driver, and mechanic, and the “feminine” roles of babysitter, beautician, and nurse.

They also asked the children to do impressions of three “gender neutral” occupations: doctor, student, and writer.

The research found both boys and girls used lower “masculine” voices for the stereotypically male jobs and higher “feminine” voices for the stereotypically female occupations.

But boys were especially likely to stereotype jobs.

And they also used an overtly masculine voice even when imitating workers with “gender-neutral” roles.

Research fellow Dr Valentina Cartei said: “Our study found that boys were especially likely to accentuate the vocal masculinity or femininity of people doing different jobs.

“This pattern suggests children have different evaluations of males and females engaging in stereotypical and counter-stereotypical occupations.”

Researchers now say authors and TV writers should be “extra vigilant” about associating job roles with a specific gender if they want children to stop associating specific jobs with specific genders.

They also believe the voice is key to challenging stereotypes children might have.

In the study, children between the ages of five and ten were provided with descriptions of traditionally male, female and gender neutral professions and asked to give voices to people in each of those jobs.

The researchers also asked them to complete a questionnaire which asked them directly about men and women carrying out particular job roles.

They also created a simple “Index of Stereotypicality” which they believe could be used to measure stereotyping in children.

The index could be a useful tool for teachers and practitioners interested in challenging stereotypes, said psychology professor Jane Oakhill.

“If we are to successfully challenge these occupational stereotypes, then as well as having depictions of both male and female nurses, we need occupational role models who vary in vocal masculinity and femininity, such as male nurses with both low and high vocal pitch,” she said.

“Unconscious bias training should also include voice cues to help teachers and parents become challenge biases about gender stereotypes in relation to jobs.”