Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 23–39 | Cite as

What can boys and girls do? Preschoolers’ perspectives regarding gender roles across domains of behavior

  • Erin R. Baker
  • Marie S. Tisak
  • John Tisak


Previous research has examined at what age and in what contexts males and females develop gender-congruent stereotypes. Research indicates that social experience may provide a great influence on the presence of such stereotypes, but this is likely influenced by the development of gender schemas. The current study interviewed 99 children (3–6.5 years) in a sub-rural Midwestern university community. Females (N = 51, M age = 4.6, SD = 0.73) and males (N = 48, M age = 4.6, SD = 0.82) were individually asked who—boys, girls, or both—can do particular (1) occupations, (2) activities, (3) aggressive behaviors, and (4) prosocial behaviors. Generally, males tended to express holding no stereotypic beliefs, indicating gender-congruent expectations for only 2 items in one of the domains; however, females expressed multiple stereotypic beliefs for each of the four contexts. Social and cognitive explanations for these phenomena are discussed. The current study is an important addition to the existing literature in that preschool teachers and parents alike might be able to assist children to better develop activities and behavioral habits such that gender-related stereotypes fail to develop.


Gender stereotypes Preschool gender development Social stereotypes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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