, Volume 26, Issue 7-8, pp 331-353

Sex typing in play and popularity in middle childhood

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Abstract

Sex differences in play behavior across the early elementary school years as well as the relation between sex-typed play and peer acceptance were examined. It was hypothesized that children who were more sex-typed in their play behaviors would be more accepted by their peers. The participants included 86 grade two children and 81 grade four children. Popularity was assessed using a rating scale sociometric measure. Sex-typed behaviors were measured by observing the children at free play. Results indicated significant age and gender differences in children's play behavior. Specifically, boys engaged in more aggressive and rough and tumble play as well as more functional, solitary-dramatic and exploratory play and tended to be involved more in group play, whereas girls produced more parallel and constructive play as well as more peer conversations. In grade 4, these differences were maximized such that boys produced more games-with-rules and girls exhibited more parallel-constructive activity. Second, results indicated that sociometric ratings and observed degree of sex-typing were not significantly related except in the case of fourth grade males. At the fourth grade level, a positive relation was observed between boys' acceptance by male peers and “masculine” or male-preferred play behavior as well as between boys' acceptance by female peers and “feminine” or female-preferred play.