Parents’ Influence on Infants’ Gender-Typed Toy Preferences

Abstract

Gender socialization influences children at early ages, shaping their developing identities. The toys provided by parents deliver some of the earliest gender-based messages by encouraging children to engage in activities associated with, for example, dolls and trucks. In the current study, we measured the influence of parental socialization by assessing 5- and 12 ½-month-old infants’ exposure to dolls and trucks and by experimentally manipulating parents’ encouragement to play with these toys. We found that infants displayed gender-typical toy preferences at 12 ½, but not 5 months, a pattern characteristic of previous studies. However, brief encouragement by a parent to play with toys from each category was ineffective in altering infants’ preferences. Rather, the types of toys present in the home predicted preferences, suggesting that at-home exposure to toys may be influential in the development of toy preferences. These findings reveal that socialization processes may indeed play a role in the formation of early gender-typical toy preferences and highlight the importance of equal toy exposure during infancy to ensure optimal development.

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Acknowledgements

The present research was supported in part by an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20 GM103505.

We would like to thank Caitlin Van Voorhis, Ellen Honsa, Savanna Westrom and the research assistants of the Infant Cognitive Development Lab at North Dakota State University for their help with data collection and manuscript preparation, as well as the parents who agreed to have their infants participate in this research.

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Correspondence to Rebecca J. Woods.

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All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards set forth by the American Psychological Association and by the home institution’s Institutional Review Board. Informed consent and parental permission was obtained for all participants. This manuscript was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests relating to this research.

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Boe, J.L., Woods, R.J. Parents’ Influence on Infants’ Gender-Typed Toy Preferences. Sex Roles 79, 358–373 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0858-4

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Keywords

  • Gender differences
  • Gender
  • Infant
  • Parents
  • Toys
  • Gender socialization