The major goal was to examine a central tenet of cognitive approaches to gender development, namely, that congruence exists between personal gender stereotypes and behaviors. Item-by-item comparisons of girls’ stereotypes about activities and their preferences for activities were conducted, for both girls who claimed to be tomboys and those who did not. Congruence was expected for all girls, but because of their gender non-normative interests, tomboys may exhibit less congruence. A secondary goal was to examine factors that might influence congruence, specifically, whether tomboys develop more inclusive stereotypes and develop greater understanding of stereotype variability. Participants included 112 girls (7–12 years old, M age = 9). Girls were interviewed about their activity preferences, beliefs about girls’ and boys’ activity preferences, understanding variability of stereotypes, and identification as tomboys. Tomboys (30% of the sample) and non-tomboys did not differ in their liking of or in the number of liked feminine activities. However, tomboys showed more interest in masculine activities than non-tomboys. Tomboys and non-tomboys did not differ in stereotype inclusiveness, although tomboys showed a trend toward more inclusive stereotypes. Both groups showed high levels of congruence between stereotypes and preferences. Congruence was stronger for nontomboys (14 times more likely to exhibit responses congruent with stereotypes vs. incongruent ones), as compared to tomboys who were four times more likely to exhibit responses congruent with stereotypes versus incongruent ones. Implications of these findings for cognitive approaches to gender development are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Arthur, A. E., Bigler, R. S., Liben, L. S., Gelman, S. A., & Ruble, D. N. (2008). Gender stereotyping and prejudice: A developmental intergroup perspective. In S. Levy & M. Killen (Eds.), Intergroup attitudes and relations in childhood through adulthood (pp. 66–86). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bailey, J. M., Bechtold, K. T., & Berenbaum, S. A. (2002). Who are tomboys and why should we study them? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 333–341.
Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364.
Bigler, R. S., & Liben, L. S. (2007). Developmental intergroup theory: Explaining and reducing children’s social stereotyping and prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 162–166.
Bradbard, M. R., & Endsley, R. C. (1983). The effects of sex-typed labeling on preschool children’s information-seeking and retention. Sex Roles, 9, 247–260.
Bradbard, M. R., Martin, C. L., Endsley, R. C., & Halverson, C. F. (1986). Influence of sex stereotypes on children’s exploration and memory: A competence versus performance distinction. Developmental Psychology, 22, 481–486.
Davies, D. R. (1986). Children’s performance as a function of sex-typed labels. British Journal of Social Psychology, 25, 173–175.
Davies, D. R. (1989). The effects of gender-typed labels on children’s performance. Current Psychology: Research & Reviews, 8, 267–272.
Green, R., William, K., & Goodman, M. (1982). Ninety-nine “tomboys” and “non-tomboys”: Behavioral contrasts and demographic similarities. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 11, 247–266.
Hargreaves, D. J., Bates, H. M., & Foot, J. M. (1985). Sex-typed labelling affects task performance. British Journal of Social Psychology, 24, 153–155.
Hemmer, J. D., & Kleiber, D. A. (1981). Tomboys and sissies: Androgynous children? Sex Roles, 7, 1205–1212.
Hogg, M. A., & Mullin, B. A. (1999). Joining groups to reduce uncertainty: Subjective uncertainty reduction and group identification. In D. Abrams & M. A. Hogg (Eds.), Social identity and social cognition (pp. 249–278). London: Blackwell Publishing.
Leaper, C. (2000). The social construction and socialization of gender during development. In P. H. Miller & E. K. Scholnick (Eds.), Toward a feminist developmental psychology (pp. 127–152). New York: Routledge.
Liben, L. S., & Bigler, R. S. (2002). The developmental course of gender differentiation. In W. Overton (Ed.), Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development (Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. vii–147). Boston: Blackwell.
Martin, C. L. (1993). New directions for investigating children’s gender knowledge. Special Issue: Early gender-role development. Developmental Review, 13(2), 184–204.
Martin, C. L. (2000). Cognitive theories of gender development. In T. Eckes & H. M. Trautner (Eds.), The developmental social psychology of gender (pp. 91–121). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Martin, C. L., Eisenbud, L., & Rose, H. (1995). Children’s gender-based reasoning about toys. Child Development, 66, 1453–1471.
Martin, C. L., & Halverson, C. (1981). A schematic processing model of sex typing and stereotyping in children. Child Development, 52, 1119–1134.
Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. N. (2004). Children’s search for gender cues: Cognitive perspectives on gender development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 67–70.
Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 903–933.
Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., Feldman, J. F., & Ehrhardt, A. A. (1985). Questionnaires for the assessment of atypical gender role behavior: A methodological study. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 24, 695–701.
Miller, C. F., Ruble, D. N., & Traunter, H. M. (2004). The role of gender stereotypes in children’s preferences and behavior. In C. Tamis-LeMonda & L. Balter (Eds.), Child psychology: A handbook of contemporary issues (2nd ed., pp. 293–323). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.
Perry, D. G., & Bussey, K. (1979). The social learning theory of sex differences: Imitation is alive and well. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1699–1712.
Plumb, P., & Cowan, G. (1984). A developmental study of destereotyping and androgynous activity preferences of tomboys, nontomboys, and males. Sex Roles, 10, 703–712.
Powlishta, K. K. (1995). Intergroup processes in childhood: Social categorization and sex-role development. Developmental Psychology, 31, 781–788.
Ruble, D. N., Martin, C. L., & Berenbaum, S. A. (2006). Gender development. In N. Eisenberg (Ed.), Handbook of child development (pp. 858–932). New York: Wiley.
Sandberg, D. E., & Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L. (1994). Variability in middle childhood play behavior: Effects of gender, age, and family background. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 645–663.
Sandberg, D. E., Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L., Ehrhardt, A. A., & Yager, T. J. (1993). The prevalence of gender-atypical behavior in elementary school children. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 32, 306–314.
Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Tobin, D. D., Menon, M., Menon, M., Spatta, B. C., Hodges, E. V. E., & Perry, D. G. (2010). The intrapsychics of gender: A model of self-socialization. Psychological Review, 117, 601–622.
Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Weisgram, E. S., Watson, E., & Zmudzinski, C. (2009, April). A test of the personal pathways model of gender differentiation. Paper presented at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
Zosuls, K. M., Ruble, D. N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shrout, P. E., Bornstein, M. H., & Greulich, F. K. (2009). The acquisition of gender labels in infancy: Implications for sex-typed play. Developmental Psychology, 45, 688–701.
This research was supported by funding from ASU Women’s Studies program. We would also like to thank Stacie Leonard and Heidi Wyman for their efforts on this project. We owe special thanks to the directors of the Tempe After-School Program and the girls who participated in this project. Support for this project was provided by the T. Denny Sanford Foundation. Portions of this research were presented at the meetings of the Society for Research in Child Development (2003, Tampa; 2011, Montreal). The authors equally contributed to this research.
About this article
Cite this article
Martin, C.L., Dinella, L.M. Congruence Between Gender Stereotypes and Activity Preference in Self-Identified Tomboys and Non-Tomboys. Arch Sex Behav 41, 599–610 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9786-5
- Gender stereotypes
- Gender role behavior
- Gender schema theory