Infant clothing: Sex labeling for strangers

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Sarah Hall Sternglanz.

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Shakin, M., Shakin, D. & Sternglanz, S.H. Infant clothing: Sex labeling for strangers. Sex Roles 12, 955–964 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288097

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Clothing Choice
  • Suburban Mall
  • Caretaker Interview