Social norms pertaining to gender are developed through socialization, the lifelong process of inheriting, interpreting, and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies.The process of socialization continues throughout one's life and is constantly renegotiated, but socialization begins as soon as one is born. Sociologists divide socialization into two different parts. Primary socialization takes place early in life, as a child and adolescent. Secondary socialization refers to the socialization that takes place throughout one's life, both as a child and as one encounters new groups that require additional socialization.
Gender is instilled through socialization immediately from birth. Consider the gender norms with which society imbues infants: The most archetypal example is the notion that male babies like blue things while female babies like pink things. When a boy gets a football for his birthday and a girl receives a doll, this also socializes children to accept gender norms. The example set by an individual's family is also important for socialization; children who grow up in a family with the husband a breadwinner and the wife a homemaker will tend to accept this as the social norm, while those who grow up in families with female breadwinners, single parents, or same-sex couples will develop different ideas of gender norms.
Because gender norms are perpetuated immediately upon birth, many sociologists study what happens when children fail to adopt the expected gender norms rather than the norms themselves. This is the standard model of studying deviance in order to understand the norm that undergirds the deviant activity. Children can resist gender norms by insisting on dressing in clothing more typically associated with the other gender, playing with toys more typically associated with the other gender, or having opposite-sex playmates .
Halloween Costumes can be Revealing!
Notice how the little girls are dressed in "feminine norms" including a princess and queen, while the boy's costume has more masculine characteristics, including the bow and arrow as a symbol of aggression.