Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 1233–1242 | Cite as

Effects of Gender Color-Coding on Toddlers’ Gender-Typical Toy Play

  • Wang I. Wong
  • Melissa Hines
Original Paper


Gender color-coding of children’s toys may make certain toys more appealing or less appealing to a given gender. We observed toddlers playing with two gender-typical toys (a train, a doll), once in gender-typical colors and once in gender-atypical colors. Assessments occurred twice, at 20–40 months of age and at 26–47 months of age. A Sex × Time × Toy × Color ANOVA showed expected interactions between Sex and Toy and Sex and Color. Boys played more with the train than girls did and girls played more with the doll and with pink toys than boys did. The Sex × Toy × Color interaction was not significant, but, at both time points, boys and girls combined played more with the gender-atypical toy when its color was typical for their sex than when it was not. This effect appeared to be caused largely by boys’ preference for, or avoidance of, the doll and by the use of pink. Also, at both time points, gender differences in toy preferences were larger in the gender-typical than in the gender-atypical color condition. At Time 2, these gender differences were present only in the gender-typical color condition. Overall, the results suggest that, once acquired, gender-typical color preferences begin to influence toy preferences, especially those for gender-atypical toys and particularly in boys. They thus could enlarge differences between boys’ and girls’ toy preferences. Because boys’ and girls’ toys elicit different activities, removing the gender color-coding of toys could encourage more equal learning opportunities.


Gender stereotyping Sex-typing Gender differences Toy preferences Color preferences 



This research was supported by the Gates Cambridge Trust. Data were presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research in Lisbon, Portugal. We would like to thank the parents, children, children’s centers and nurseries who contributed data to the research, and Mihaela Constantinescu who helped with data coding.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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