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Child Dev. 1988 Jun;59(3):793-814.

Paternal absence and sex-role development: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1Department of Psychological Science, Ball State University, Muncie, IN 47306.


A meta-analysis was based on every available study that has compared father-present and father-absent children on a measure of sex typing. 67 studies produced 222 estimates of effect size. Owing to the inappropriateness of conventional statistics, Hedges's approach to meta-analysis was employed. Results show that published studies produced larger estimates of effect size than dissertations and conference papers. Effect-size estimates based on clinical and incarcerated samples were significantly different from those based on more typical samples. Generalizable differences between father-present and father-absent females were conspicuously absent. Preschool father-absent boys were shown to make less stereotypical choices of toys and activities when compared to father-present age-mates. When compared to father-present boys, older father-absent boys were more stereotypical in their overt behavior, particularly in terms of aggression. Discussion focused on interpretation of the results within a multidimensional conception of sex role.

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