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Children’s Gender-Typed Activity Choices Across Preschool Social Contexts

Abstract

Variability in children’s gender-typed activity preferences was examined across several preschool social contexts--solitary play, interactions with female peers, male peers, and both, and interactions with teachers. Participants were preschool children (N = 264; 49 % girls, M age = 52 months, range 37–60) attending Head Start classes in the Southwest United States. Seventy-three percent were Mexican/Mexican-American, and 82 % of families earned less than $30,000 per year. Children’s preferences for gender-typed activities varied as a function of their own gender and the identity of their interactional partners. Girls and boys preferred gender-typed activities (e.g., girls preferred feminine activities) when in solitary play but activity preferences changed across social contexts. Specifically, girls played significantly more with masculine activities when with male peers and boys played significantly more with feminine activities during interactions with teachers. Findings suggest that through social interactions with peers and teachers, children are exposed to a greater range of activities than what they experience when they play by themselves.

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Correspondence to Priscilla Goble.

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Table 5 Description of gender-typed activities

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Goble, P., Martin, C.L., Hanish, L.D. et al. Children’s Gender-Typed Activity Choices Across Preschool Social Contexts. Sex Roles 67, 435–451 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0176-9

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Keywords

  • Gender-typed activities
  • Gender differences
  • Preschool