How Does Stereotyping Affect Relationships?

Stereotypes made on any basis may have lasting effects on your relationships.
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Stereotyping based on personal characteristics -- including gender, race and age -- is common, portrayed on screens small and large and across everyday life. Some have misguided ideas about the submissiveness of women, the dominance of men and the relative intelligence and aptitude of different races. These stereotypes can affect your relationships with romantic partners, friends and family in obvious ways.

1 Gender Expectations

Many people have internalized stereotypical views of men and women -- and they often bring those views into their relationships, writes psychologist Lisa Firestone in "Is Sexual Stereotyping Affecting Your Relationship?" on Psychology Today online. Wives might expect their husbands to be unsentimental and rational, while husbands expect wives to let their emotions rule. In reality, men and women are not born with these characteristics, but expecting them from a spouse -- or from yourself -- can lead to confusion and resentment within the relationship as well as a sense of not fully expressing your emotions with your partner.

2 Skewing of Interracial Relationships

Academic studies show that racial stereotyping can also impact relationships. In a 2013 study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that Americans tend to view black people as more masculine and Asian people as more feminine than white people. These stereotypes affect romantic attraction and the composition of interracial marriages. The study's authors reviewed 2000 census data and found that 73 percent of marriages between black and white people include a black man and white woman, 75 percent of those between white and Asian people include a white man and Asian woman, and 86 percent of marriages between black and Asian people include a black man and Asian woman.

3 Perceptions of Older Adults

Those in contact with the elderly often perceive them to be frail and incapable though they may be just as capable of working and taking care of themselves, according to writings by the National Research Council Committee on Aging Frontiers in Social Psychology, Personality and Adult Developmental Psychology. These negative stereotypes can impact older adults' workplace relationships as well as relationships with family members, who may see a memory slip as more dire than when a younger person makes a similar mistake.

4 Stereotype Threat Spillover

Being stereotyped can cause a great deal of stress. This stress can spill over into unrelated situations and cause riskier decision-making or increased aggression, as a 2010 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Michael Inzlicht and Sonia K. Kang of the University of Toronto Scarborough suggests. A young man who has been stereotyped at school may come home and lash out at his parents in response. Unfortunately, these findings suggest that any relationship in which one member experiences stereotyping is subject to the effects of this phenomenon, which Inzlicht and Kang call "stereotype threat spillover."

A graduate of Oberlin College, Caitlin Duke has written on travel and relationships for She has crisscrossed the country several times, and relishes discovering new points on the map. As a credentialed teacher, she also has a strong background in issues facing families today.