Selling Product or Selling Gender: Toy Advertisements and Child Gender Identity

Main Article Content

Lauren Andreu, Class of 2015


Significant research has been conducted on how well children understand advertisements and the effect advertisements and television have on a child. However, there is not a large amount of research on the relationship between toy advertisements and children’s choices for play and gender identity. This paper will attempt to bring together multiple aspects of research that touch on all of these points to better grasp a full understanding of the topic. The research found that young children identify certain toys as gendered, but that they and their parents are open-minded about playing with many toys specifically marketed to the opposite gender. It was also found children could not provide a true understanding of what an advertisement’s purpose is until they were nine years old.

Comments from Mentors

"Lauren created a strong qualitative study investigating the ways that toy advertising represents gender, which is an important topic in strategic communication. She has analyzed one of the primary questions of media culture: in what ways does advertising reflect culture and create culture? We know that advertising socializes its audiences, but what happens when advertising is aimed at children? Lauren began working on this project as a new student in our program, and she continued to interrogate media examples as an honors student. In our diversity course, I invite and challenge students to find conversations that interest them, and Lauren did that and so much more as part of her learning at TCU."

--Dr. Jacqueline Johnson Lambiase 


"Lauren proposed a very ambitious project, and I was concerned about her ability to manage it in the midst of classes and preparation for graduation. She was determined, methodical, and organized in her approach, and she demonstrated the types of creative thinking required to overcome obstacles in research and to examine complex issues of gender expressions and marketing strategies. A project of this nature takes forethought, consistency, and intellectual curiosity, and Lauren has all of these. It is a learning experience and a pleasure to be able to support Lauren on this project."

--Dr. Catherine A. Coleman 



Article Details

Bob Schieffer College of Communication