Original Article

Sex Roles

, Volume 67, Issue 9, pp 503-515

First online:

Gender-Typed Play Behavior in Early Childhood: Adopted Children with Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Parents

  • Abbie E. GoldbergAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Clark University Email author 
  • , Deborah A. KashyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Michigan State University
  • , JuliAnna Z. SmithAffiliated withCenter for Research on Families, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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This study examined whether the gender-typed play of young children varies as a function of family structure. Using a sample of 126 couples (44 lesbian couples, 34 gay male couples, and 48 heterosexual couples) located throughout the United States, with an adopted child between the age of 2 and 4 years old (mean = 2.5 years), we examined parent reports of children’s gender-typed play behavior utilizing the Pre-School Activities Inventory (PSAI; Golombok and Rust 1993). Findings revealed that the perceived play behaviors of boys and girls in same-gender parent families were more similar (i.e., less gender-stereotyped) than the perceived play behavior of boys and girls in heterosexual-parent families (which were more divergent; that is, gender-stereotyped). Sons of lesbian mothers were less masculine in their play behavior than sons of gay fathers and sons of heterosexual parents. Our findings have implications for researchers who study gender development in children and adolescents.


Children Gay Gender Lesbian Multilevel modeling Play