Sex Roles

, Volume 12, Issue 9–10, pp 955–964 | Cite as

Infant clothing: Sex labeling for strangers

  • Madeline Shakin
  • Debra Shakin
  • Sarah Hall Sternglanz


Labeling an infant as a boy or girl affects behavior toward the infant. While intimates know a baby's sex label and behave consistently to the baby, strangers cannot unless given a cue. Forty-eight infants and their caretakers were observed in suburban malls to see if clothing normally provides such cues; 90% of the infants were dressed in sex-typed clothes. Girls wore or carried pink (75%), yellow, ruffles, puffed sleeves, and/or dresses. Boys wore blue (79%) and/or red. Observers were able to correctly guess the sex of “labeled” infants only. Surprisingly, simultaneous caretaker interviews revealed that parents do not spontaneously mention sex as a factor in clothing choice, nor do they feel they would be very bothered by strangers' mistaking the infant's sex.


Social Psychology Clothing Choice Suburban Mall Caretaker Interview 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madeline Shakin
    • 2
  • Debra Shakin
    • 1
  • Sarah Hall Sternglanz
    • 2
  1. 1.Albany Law SchoolUSA
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentState University of New York at Stony BrookStony Brook

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