Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 645–663 | Cite as

Variability in middle childhood play behavior: Effects of gender, age, and family background

  • David E. Sandberg
  • Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg
Article

Abstract

Parent-report questionnaires for the assessment of gender-normative and gender-atypical behavior in childhood offers researchers the opportunity to conduct large-scale screenings of community samples of boys and girls. One important aspect of childhood gender role behavior includes play. Although play behavior inventories have been used clinically for the identification of gender disturbed boys, recent community-based surveys of play behavior in both genders are lacking. The present postal questionnaire survey of parents of 688, 6- to 10-year-old children (boys = 333, girls = 355) attending one public school district (74% of the eligible sample), clarifies how subject's age, family race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status influence gender differences in play. Significant gender differences were detected for 63 of the 69 games. With but few exceptions, the magnitude of the gender differences in play remained relatively constant across middle childhood. Older boys and girls decreased their participation in activities numerically dominated by girls whereas the reverse was true for male-dominated activities. Parents' educational level influenced play for only a minority of items. Finally, whereas race/ethnicity significantly predicted game/activity participation in approximately one half of the items, a consistent influence of this variable on gender-related play did not emerge. In spite of dramatic changes in women's roles in the U.S. society over the past three decades, gender differences in middle childhood play have remained strong.

Key words

play boys and girls gender role behavior prevalence community survey 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bates, J. E., and Bentler, P. M. (1973). Play activities of normal and effeminate boys.Dev. Psychol. 9: 20–27.Google Scholar
  2. Bates, J. E., Bentler, P. M., and Thompson, S. K. (1973). Measurement of deviant gender development.Child Dev. 44: 591–598.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Blakemore, J. E. O., LaRue, A. A., and Olejnik, A. B. (1979). Sex-appropriate toy preference and the ability to conceptualize toys as sex-role related.Dev. Psychol. 15: 339–340.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, D. G. (1956). Sex-role preference in young children.Psychol. Monogr. 70 (14, Whole No. 421).Google Scholar
  5. Connor, J. M., and Serbin, L. A. (1977). Behaviorally based masculine- and feminine-activity-preference scales for preschoolers: Correlates with other classroom behaviors and cognitive tests.Child Dev. 48: 1411–1416.Google Scholar
  6. Cummings, S., and Taebel, D. (1980). Sexual inequality and the reproduction of consciousness: An analysis of sex-role stereotyping among children.Sex Roles 6: 631–644.Google Scholar
  7. Doll, P. A., Fagot, H. J., and Himbert, J. D. (1971). Experimenter effect on sex-role preference among black and white lower-class male children.Psychol. Rep. 29: 1295–1301.Google Scholar
  8. Fagot, B. I. (1974). Sex differences in toddlers' behavior and parental reaction.Dev. Psychol. 10: 554–558.Google Scholar
  9. Faulkender, P. J. (1980). Categorical habituation with sex-typed toy stimuli in older and younger preschoolers.Child Dev. 51: 515–519.Google Scholar
  10. Garrett, C. S., Ein, P. L., and Tremaine, L. (1977). The development of gender stereotyping of adult occupations in elementary school children.Child Dev. 48: 507–512.Google Scholar
  11. Green R. (1974). Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  12. Hall, M., and Keith, R. A. (1964). Sex-role preference among children of upper and lower social class.J. Soc. Psychol. 62: 101–110.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Hollingshead, A. B. (1975).Four factor index of social status. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Yale University, New Haven, CT.Google Scholar
  14. Humphreys, A. P., and Smith P. K. (1987). Rough and tumble, friendship, and dominance in school children: Evidence for continuity and change with age.Child Dev. 58: 201–212.Google Scholar
  15. Huston, A. C. (1983). Sex typing. In Hetheringon, E. M. (ed.),Socialization, Personality, and Social Development; Vol. 4. Handbook of Child Psychology (P. H. Mussen, ed.), 4th ed., Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Huston, A. C. (1985). The development of sex typing: Themes from recent research.Dev. Rev. 5: 1–17.Google Scholar
  17. Kleinke, C. L., and Nicholson, T. A. (1979). Black and white children's awareness of de facto race and sex differences.Dev. Psychol. 15: 84–86.Google Scholar
  18. Kohlberg, L., and Zigler, E. (1967). The impact on cognitive maturity on the development of sex-role attitudes in the years 4 to 8.Genet. Psychol. Monogr. 75: 89–165.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Marantz, S. A., and Mansfield, A. F. (1977). Maternal employment and the development of sex-role stereotyping in five- to eleven-year-old girls.Child Dev. 48: 668–673.Google Scholar
  20. Meyer, B. (1980). The development of girls' sex-role attitudes.Child Dev. 51: 508–514.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., Feldman, J. F., and Ehrhardt, A. A. (1985). Questionnaires for the assessment of atypical gender role behavior: A methodological study.J. Am. Acad. Child Psychiat. 24: 695–701.Google Scholar
  22. Nadelman, L. (1974). Sex identity in American children: Memory, knowledge, and preference tests.Dev. Psychol. 10: 413–417.Google Scholar
  23. Norusis, M. J. (1990).SPSS Advanced Statistics User's Guide, SPSS Inc., Chicago.Google Scholar
  24. Rabban, M. (1950). Sex-role identification in young children in two diverse social groups.Genet. Psychol. Monogr. 42: 81–158.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Rubin, K. H., Fein, G. G., and Vandenberg, B. (1983). Play, In Hetherington, E. M. (ed.),Socialization, Personality, and Social Development; Vol. 4. Handbook of Child Psychology (P. H. Mussen, ed.), 4th ed., Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  26. Sandberg, D. E., Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., and Yager, T. (1990). The Child Behavior Checklist nonclinical standardization samples: Should they be utilized as norms?J. Am. Acad. Child Adolescent Psychiat. 30: 124–134.Google Scholar
  27. Sandberg, D., Ehrhardt, A., Ince, S., and Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L. (1991). Gender differences in children's and adolescents' career aspirations. A follow-up study.J. Adolescent Res. 6: 371–386.Google Scholar
  28. Schau, C. G., Kahn, L., Diepold, J. H., and Cherry, F. (1980). The relationships of parental expectations and preschool children's verbal sex-typing to their sex-typed toy play behavior.Child Dev. 51: 266–270.Google Scholar
  29. Silvern L. E., and Katz, P. A. (1986). Gender roles and adjustment in elementary-school children: A multidimensional approach.Sex Roles 14: 181–202.Google Scholar
  30. Sutton-Smith, B., Rosenberg, B. G., and Morgan, E. F., Jr. (1963). Development of sex differences in play choices during preadolescence.Child Dev. 34: 119–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Thompson, S. K. (1975). Gender labels and early sex role development.Child Dev. 46: 339–347.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Zucker, K. J. (1985). Cross-gender-identified children. In Steiner B. W. (ed.),Gender Dysphoria, Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • David E. Sandberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryChildren's Hospital of BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and PediatricsState University of New York at BuffaloBuffaloUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryCollege of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations