Research

Campbell Leaper is a developmental and social psychologist investigating gender and sexism across the lifespan. 

Professor Leaper's research has considered how gender is defined through social interaction patterns in families, peer groups, schools, the media, friendships, and romantic relationships. Based on their gender, children are often provided different opportunities to practice particular social and cognitive skills. Gender differences in experience, in turn, are viewed as contributing to the development of different expectations, social identities, preferences, and abilities. In these ways, gender inequalities are perpetuated. 

In addition, Professor Leaper hosts the Gender Development Research Conference in San Francisco every two years. This event is co-chaired with his colleague, Professor Carol Martin. The conference is attended by leading researchers and graduate students in the field. 

Some of the major topics in Professor Leaper’s research are summarized below. For a listing of research articles and review papers, please go to the Publications page.

 

Correlates and consequences of sexism.

Professor Leaper with his colleagues and students have been studying factors related to experiences with sexism in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Some recent and ongoing studies are aimed at understanding if and how sexism and traditional gender ideologies may be related to girls’ and boys’ academic achievement or to functioning in close relationships. For example, studies with Professor Christia Spears Brown (at the University of Kentucky) highlighted factors related to girls’ experiences and coping with sexism in school settings (Leaper & Brown, 2008; Leaper, Brown, & Ayres, 2013). Another related set of studies have considered girls’ and young women’s identification with feminism and how feminist awareness might help them better cope with sexist events (Ayres & Leaper, 2012; Leaper & Arias, 2011).

In addition, many of Professor Leaper’s recent and current studies examine factors related to people’s endorsement of sexist attitudes (such as benevolent sexism, hostile sexism, and modern sexism) and internalization of traditional gender ideologies (Farkas & Leaper, 2016; Paynter & Leaper, 2016).

Representative Papers
     Ayres, M. M., Friedman, C. K., & Leaper, C. (2009). Individual and situational factors related to young women’s likelihood of confronting sexism in their everyday lives. Sex Roles, 61, 449-460.  
   Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2008). Perceived experiences with sexism among adolescent girls. Child Development, 79, 685-704.
     Leaper, C., Brown, C. S., & Ayres, M. M. (2013). Adolescent girls' cognitive appraisals of coping responses to sexual harassment. Psychology In the Schools, 50, 969-986.
     Robnett, R. D., & Leaper, C. (2013). “Girls don’t propose! Ew.”: A mixed-methods examination of college marriage tradition preferences and benevolent sexism in emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28, 96-121.
     Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Sexism in schools. In J. Benson (Series Ed.), L. S. Liben & R. S. Bigler (Vol. eds.), Advances in child development and behavior: The role of gender in educational contexts and outcomes (pp. 189-223). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
     Farkas, T., & Leaper C. (2016). Chivalry’s double-edged sword: How girls’ and boys’ paternalistic attitudes relate to their possible family and work selves. Sex Roles, 74, 220-230. 
     Paynter, A., & Leaper, C. (2016). Heterosexual dating double standards in undergraduate women and men. Sex Roles, 75, 393-406. 

Gender socialization and academic achievement.

Many of Professor Leaper’s projects have examined individual and social factors related to gender-related variations in academic achievement.

In several of these investigations, the focus has been on girls’ and women’s motivation and achievement in subjects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Women’s underrepresentation in many STEM fields is important because they are among the highest paying professions.

One of his first investigations with former graduate student Harriet Tenenbaum revealed that many fathers tended to use more teaching talk with sons than daughters in an assigned science task (Tenenbaum & Leaper, 2003). In a study conducted with colleague Dr. Christia Brown, it was found most adolescent girls had heard sexist comments about girls in STEM-related subjects, and these experiences were negatively related to their motivation in science and math (Brown & Leaper, 2010; Leaper & Brown, 2008; Leaper, Farkas, & Brown, 2012).

Also, research with former graduate student Rachael Robnett illustrated how the academic norms of friendship cliques may affect high school girls’ and boys’ interest in possible science careers (Robnett & Leaper, 2013). Professor Leaper is also interested in how rigid gender-typing can undermine boys’ and young men’s academic achievement. In a study with former senior thesis student Stephanie Van, it was observed that endorsement of traditional masculinity ideology was related to men’s favoring traditional over non-traditional college majors (Leaper & Van, 2008). 

Professor Leaper and current graduate student Christy Starr recently conducted a study into social-psychological factors related to gender-related variations in math and language arts achievement among middle-school children. In addition, they are starting new investigations into group belonging and school climate in relation to high school and undergraduate students' STEM motivation. 

Representative Papers
     Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2008). Perceived experiences with sexism among adolescent girls. Child Development, 79, 685-704.
     Brown, C.S., & Leaper, C. (2010). Latina and European American girls' experiences with academic sexism and their self-concepts in mathematics and science during adolescence. Sex Roles, 63, 860-870.
     Leaper, C., Farkas, T., & Brown, C. S. (2012). Adolescent girls' experiences and gender-related beliefs in relation to their motivation in math/science and English. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 41, 268-282
     Robnett, R. D., & Leaper, C. (2013). Friendship groups, personal motivation, and gender in relation to high school students’ STEM career interest. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23, 652-664.
     Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Sexism in schools. In J. Benson (Series Ed.), L. S. Liben & R. S. Bigler (Vol. eds.), Advances in child development and behavior: The role of gender in educational contexts and outcomes (pp. 189-223). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
     Leaper, C. (2015). Do I belong? Gender, peer groups, and STEM achievement. International Journal of Gender, Science, and Technology, 7, 166-179.

Gender and close relationships.

Professor Leaper's research program has also included investigations into ways that gender may affect close relationships. This work has included studies of friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships.

Friendships. Professor Leaper has studied gender-related variations in self-disclosure, gossip, and decision-making in same-gender and cross-gender friendships (Leaper et al., 1995; Leaper & Holliday, 1995; Leaper, 1998). Also, one recent study with Jessica McGuire (former student) looked at perceived competition regarding interpersonal and achievement matters in same-gender friendships (McGuire & Leaper, 20106). Former graduate student Kristin Anderson and Professor Leaper reviewed ways that traditional gender socialization may undermine effective functioning and satisfaction in heterosexual romantic relationships (Leaper & Anderson, 1997).

Peer acceptance. Other studies have considered gender, peer acceptance, and self-esteem. For example, research with former graduate student T. E. Smith indicated that adolescents who did not feel typical for their gender tended to have low esteem, but this partly depended on the degree of peer acceptance (Smith & Leaper, 2006). Another analysis with former graduate student Elizabeth Daniels found sports participation was related to adolescents’ later self-esteem; however, this partly depended on whether sports participation was associated with peer acceptance--especially for girls (Daniels & Leaper, 2006).

Family relationships. Family relationships are another relationship context in which Professor Leaper has examined gender development. In one study with former graduate student Laura Sabattini, factors related to mothers’ and fathers’ egalitarian division of labor in the home were examined in relation to reported parenting styles (Leaper & Sabattini, 2004). In another report with former senior thesis student Dena Valin, predictors of variations in Mexican American parents’ gender attitudes were identified (Leaper & Valin, 1996). Also, Leaper has carried out several studies of gender typing in parent-child interactions. Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis with former graduate student Timea Farkas tested the association between older sibling gender and gender typing (Farkas & Leaper, 2014).

Romantic relationships. In research with former graduate student Rachael Robnett, it was found that college students’ support of traditional marital scripts (marriage proposal, changing or retaining one’s last name) was related to their endorsement of benevolent sexism (Robnett & Leaper, 2013). A related study with former senior thesis student Alexa Paynter evaluated the degree that double standards regarding heterosexual dating roles (e.g., who initiates and pays for date) were associated with sexist attitudes (Paynter & Leaper, 2016).

Ongoing research with former graduate student Timea Farkas is looking at possible ways that gender ideologies and attachment styles may jointly affect romantic relationships. Another new study with colleague May Ling Halim (California State University at Long Beach) examines gender- and ethnic-related variations in college students' dating relationships.

Representative Papers
     Leaper, C., Carson, M., Baker, C., Holliday, H., Myers, S. B. (1995). Self-disclosure and listener verbal support in same-gender and cross-gender friends' conversations. Sex Roles, 33, 387-404.
     Leaper, C., & Holliday, H. (1995). Gossip processes during same-gender and cross-gender friends' conversations. Personal Relationships, 2, 237-246.
     Leaper, C., & Valin, D. (1996). Predictors of Mexican-American mothers' and fathers' attitudes toward gender equality. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 18, 343-355.
     Leaper, C., & Anderson, K. J. (1997). Gender development and heterosexual romantic relationships during adolescence. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & S. Shulman & W. A. Collins (Issue Eds.), Romantic relationships in adolescence: Developmental perspectives (New Directions for Child Development, No. 78, pp. 85-103). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
     Leaper, C. (1998). Decision-making processes between friends during a problem-solving task: Speaker and partner gender effects. Sex Roles, 39, 125-133.
     Sabattini, L., & Leaper, C. (2004). The relation between mothers' and fathers' parenting styles and their division of labor in the home: Young adults' retrospective reports. Sex Roles, 50, 217-224.
     Daniels, E., & Leaper, C. (2006). A longitudinal investigation of sport participation, peer acceptance, and self-esteem among adolescent boys and girls. Sex Roles, 55, 875-880.
     Smith, T. E., & Leaper, C. (2006). Self-perceived gender typicality and the peer context during adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 91-104.
     Robnett, R. D., & Leaper, C. (2013). “Girls don’t propose! Ew.”: A mixed-methods examination of college marriage tradition preferences and benevolent sexism in emerging adults. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28, 96-121.
     Farkas, T., & Leaper, C. (2014). Is having an older brother or older sister related to young siblings’ gender typing?: A meta-analysis. In P. J. Leman & H. Tenenbaum (Eds.), Gender and development (Current issues in developmental psychology, pp. 63-77). New York: Psychology Press.
     McGuire, J. E., & Leaper, C. (2016). Competition, coping, and closeness in young heterosexual adults’ same-gender friendships. Sex Roles, 74, 422-435.
     Paynter, A., & Leaper, C. (2016). Heterosexual dating double standards in undergraduate women and men. Sex Roles, 75, 393-406.

Gender and language.

Many of Professor Leaper’s studies examined gender-related variations in language. This work was an outgrowth of his start in graduate school studying the pragmatic aspects of children’s language development (see “Bio” page). He has been interested in how gender is used to define and maintain gender divisions.

Leaper advanced a model of language and social interaction that conceptualizes self-assertion and affiliation as two dimensions (Leaper, 1991). The two-dimensional model allows for speech acts that are high in both assertion and affiliation (collaborative acts), primarily high in assertion (controlling acts), primarily high in affiliation (obliging acts), and acts that are low in both dimensions (withdrawal). His studies of children’s peer conversations illustrated girls tended to use more collaborative speech (high affiliation and high assertion) than did boys, whereas boys tended to use more controlling speech than did girls.

Professor Leaper’s research illustrates how the likelihood of gender differences in parents’ and children’s speech partly depended on the speaker’s gender, the partner’s gender, and the activity. For example, research with Professor Jean Berko Gleason at Boston University highlighted how gender-related variations in parents’ speech to young children differed depending on the play activity (Leaper & Gleason, 1996). Also, research with former graduate student Carly Friedman and colleague Rebecca Bigler (University of Texas at Austin) looked at mother-child discussions about a gender-related storybook; it was found that mothers with gender-egalitarian attitudes were more likely (than mothers with traditional gender attitudes) to make more comments countering gender stereotypes when the story included nontraditional characters (Friedman, Leaper, & Bigler, 2007).

As mentioned earlier, several studies have investigated communication processes in same-gender and cross-gender friendships. For example, one report revealed that women were more likely than men to demonstrated active understanding when listening to friends’ disclosures--but this pattern depended on the gender composition (same- vs. cross-gender) of the friendship (Leaper et al., 1995). Another study documented ways that women and men tended to differ in their uses of gossip in conversations with friends--and considered the social functions that gossip might serve (Leaper & Holliday, 1995).

Leaper has published several reviews of research on gender and language. These include several meta-analyses (see "Publications"). He has posited various ways that gendered language contributes to sexist thinking (Bigler & Leaper, 2015; Leaper, 2014; Leaper & Bigler, 2004). 

Representative Papers
     Leaper, C. (1991). Influence and involvement in children's discourse: Age, gender, and partner effects. Child Development, 62, 797-811.
     Leaper, C., Carson, M., Baker, C., Holliday, H., Myers, S. B. (1995). Self-disclosure and listener verbal support in same-gender and cross-gender friends' conversations. Sex Roles, 33, 387-404.
     Leaper, C., & Holliday, H. (1995). Gossip processes during same-gender and cross-gender friends' conversations. Personal Relationships, 2, 237-246.
     Leaper, C., & Gleason, J. B. (1996). The relation of gender and play activity to parent and child communication. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 19, 689-703.
     Leaper, C., & Smith, T. E. (2004). A meta-analytic review of gender variations in children's talk: Talkativeness, affiliative speech, and assertive speech. Developmental Psychology, 40, 993-1027.
     Friedman, C.K., Leaper, C., & Bigler, R.S. (2007). Do mothers' gender attitudes or gender-stereotyped comments predict young children's gender beliefs? Parenting: Science and Practice, 7, 357-366.
     Leaper, C., & Ayres, M. (2007). A meta-analytic review of moderators of gender differences in adults' talkativeness, affiliative, and assertive speech. Personality & Social Psychology Review, 11, 328-363.
     Leaper, C., & Robnett, R. D. (2011). Women are more likely than men to use tentative language; aren’t they?: A meta-analysis testing for gender differences and moderators. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 129-142
     Leaper, C. (2014). Gender similarities and differences in language. In T. Holtgraves (Ed.), Oxford handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 62-81). New York: Oxford University Press.
     Bigler, R. S., & Leaper, C. (2015). Gendered language: Psychological principles, Evolving practices, and inclusive policies. Policy Insights from Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 2, 187-194.

Representations of gender in the media.

Professor Leaper is additionally concerned with ways that the mass media perpetuates and reinforces many gender stereotypes.

Leaper published a content analysis of gender stereotyping in children’s television cartoons (Leaper et al., 2002). In a recent study with former senior thesis student Alexa Paynter, media use was related to individuals’ endorsement of gender double standards.

Currently, graduate student Abigail Walsh and Professor Leaper are carrying out a content analysis into representations of gender in television programs geared toward preschool-age children. They are also starting a new experiment to test the influence of viewing cartoons with strong female superheroes on young children's gender attitudes. 

Representative Papers
     Leaper, C., Breed, L., Hoffman, L., & Perlman, C. A. (2002). Variations in the gender-stereotyped content of children's television cartoons across genres. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 32, 1653-1662.
     Paynter, A., & Leaper, C. (2016). Heterosexual dating double standards in undergraduate women and men. Sex Roles, 75, 393-406.

Intersectionality.

The construct of intersectionality emphasizes that people’s experience is affected by the intersection of their multiple social identities. These include their gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation.

Many of Professor Leaper’s investigations consider the intersection of gender and ethnicity/race in relation to gender development. Also, some of his studies have specifically focused on populations that have been understudied in psychology. For example, with former students Harriet Tenenbaum and Tani Shaffer, gender-related patterns of communication were identified in African American girls and boys from low-income urban neighborhoods that were similar to those seen in prior research with children from mostly middle-class, White European American backgrounds (Leaper, Tenenbaum, & Shaffer, 1999).

Another set of studies investigated gender socialization in Mexican American families with preschool-age children. In one report with former student Harriet Tenenbaum, mothers and fathers were compared in their use of questions and other scaffolding language with their child during toy play (Tenenbaum & Leaper, 1998). A study with colleague Christia Spears Brown (University of Kentucky) compared Latina and White European American girls’ experiences with academic sexism and their academic motivation in science and math (Brown & Leaper, 2010). Another investigation with former student Antoinette Wilson examined the intersection of gender and racial/ethnic identities in relation to self-esteem and experiences with in-group and out-group discrimination (Wilson & Leaper, 2016; Wilson & Leaper, in progress).

Besides research on the intersection of gender and ethnicity/race, some studies have looked at sexual orientation and gender. One study with Carly Friedman documented sexual-minority women’s experiences with gender heterosexism--the combined impact of sexism and heterosexism (Friedman & Leaper, 2010).

Representative Papers
     Tenenbaum, H. R., & Leaper, C. (1998). Gender effects on Mexican-descent parents' questions and scaffolding during toy play: A sequential analysis. First Language, 18, 129-147.
     Leaper, C., Tenenbaum, H. R., & Shaffer, T. G. (1999). Communication patterns of African American girls and boys from low-income, urban backgrounds. Child Development, 70, 1489-1503.
     Manaago, A., Brown, C. S., & Leaper, C. (2009). Feminist identity development among Latina adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24, 750-776.
     Brown, C.S., & Leaper, C. (2010). Latina and European American girls' experiences with academic sexism and their self-concepts in mathematics and science during adolescence. Sex Roles, 63, 860-870.
     Friedman, C. K., & Leaper, C. (2010). Sexual minority women's experiences with discrimination: Relations with identity and collective action. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 34, 152-164.
     Wilson, A., & Leaper, C. (2016). Bridging multidimensional of ethnic-racial and gender identity among ethnically diverse emerging adults. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 45, 1614-1637.

Reviews of theory and research.

Professor Leaper maintains an ongoing interest in synthesizing our knowledge about gender. He is the author of numerous review chapters and meta-analyses on the psychology of gender (which are often co-authored with his graduate students or colleagues). A few recent examples are described below.

First, Leaper recently published a comprehensive review of theory and research on gender development for the prestigious Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (Leaper, 2015). Also, he reviewed research on gender similarities and differences in language during childhood and adulthood for the Oxford Handbook of Language and Social Psychology (Leaper, 2014). In addition, Leaper and former graduate student completed a chapter reviewing theory and research on the psychology of boys for the APA Handbook of Men and Masculinity (Farkas & Leaper, 2016). Also, Professor Leaper conducted a review with Professor Christia Brown on sexism in schools for Advances in Child Development and Behavior: The Role of Gender in Educational Contexts and Outcomes (Leaper & Brown, 2014).

Professor Leaper has conducted several meta-analytic reviews (see Publications). This method involves statistical summaries of results across several studies. Several of his meta-analyses have tested if and when there are average gender differences in language use. These include meta-analyses of gender-related variations in parents’ speech to children (with Kristin Anderson), children’s talkativeness and use of assertive and affiliative language (with T. Evan Smith), adults’ talkativeness and use of assertive and affiliative language (with Melanie Ayres), adults’ interruptions (with Kristin Anderson), and adults’ use of tentative speech (with Rachael Robnett). Another meta-analysis (with Harriet Tenenbaum) examined the association between parents’ and children’s gender self-concepts and gender attitudes. More recently, a meta-analysis (with Timea Farkas) considered if having an older brother or older sister was related to gender-typing.

Finally, Professor Leaper has advocated for more integration across theories in developmental psychology. In a chapter appearing in Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Leaper (2011) identified some possible ways that different theories could be bridged, while also explaining reasons why this is often difficult to achieve in psychology.

Representative Papers
     Leaper, C. (2011). More similarities than differences in contemporary theories of social development? A plea for theory bridging. In J. B. Benson (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (pp. 337-378). Elsevier.
     Leaper, C. (2014). Gender similarities and differences in language. In T. Holtgraves (Ed.), Oxford handbook of language and social psychology (pp. 62-81). New York: Oxford University Press.
     Leaper, C., & Brown, C. S. (2014). Sexism in schools. In J. Benson (Series Ed.), L. S. Liben & R. S. Bigler (Vol. eds.), Advances in child development and behavior: The role of gender in educational contexts and outcomes (pp. 189-223). San Diego, CA: Elsevier.
     Leaper, C. (2015). Gender and social-cognitive development. In R. M. Lerner (Series Ed.), L. S. Liben & U. Muller (Vol. Eds.), Handbook of child psychology and developmental science (7th ed.), Vol. 2: Cognitive processes (pp. 806-853). New York: Wiley.
     Farkas, T., & Leaper, C. (2016). The psychology of boys. In Y. J. Wong & S. Wester (Eds.), APA handbook of men and masculinities (pp. 357-387). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.