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Preschool Teachers’ Facilitation of Gender-Typed and Gender- Neutral Activities during Free Play

Abstract

Understanding how preschool teachers facilitate children’s engagement in gender-typed and gender-neutral activities is important given that engagement in gender-typed activities is differentially linked to the development of skills connected to later academic achievement. Thus, facilitation of children’s engagement in gender-typed activities may contribute to emergence of gender differences in later educational outcomes. The current study used a teacher-focal observational coding system to investigate research questions about the frequency with which teachers facilitated feminine, masculine, and gender-neutral activities with same- and mixed-gender groups during free-play. Participants were 37 female teachers of Head Start classrooms in the U.S. Southwest (M years teaching preschool = 10.57, SD = 6.85, range = 2–27; 75.6 % completed at least a bachelor’s degree). Results revealed that feminine activities were facilitated less often than were masculine and gender- neutral activities during free play. Results also revealed variability in teachers’ facilitation of feminine, masculine, and gender-neutral activities, depending on the gender composition of the students with whom teachers were interacting (i.e., boys-only, girls-only, and mixed-gender). Implications for educational, developmental, and gender research are discussed.

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Correspondence to Kristen L. Granger.

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This is original research not under consideration for publication elsewhere. No copyrighted material has been used. All of the listed authors made substantial contributions to this research and have agreed upon the listed order for authorship. None of the authors had any conflicts of interest while conducting and reporting this research. Funding sources were the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and the Challenged Child Project. We have complied with all APA ethical standards in the recruitment and treatment of our participants and conducted this research under the supervision of the Arizona State University’s Institutional Review Board.

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Granger, K.L., Hanish, L.D., Kornienko, O. et al. Preschool Teachers’ Facilitation of Gender-Typed and Gender- Neutral Activities during Free Play. Sex Roles 76, 498–510 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0675-1

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Keywords

  • Preschool teachers
  • Classroom behavior
  • Childhood play behavior
  • Gender-typing
  • Human sex differences
  • Educational toys
  • Group composition