More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Gender and relationship of children

Gender and Relationship of Children

By: Your Name Here

For: Professor name here

Psychology 260.10


The topic of sex differences in the play preschoolers has been explored

by many researchers in the past. Studies have been conducted on basic sex

differences such as what toys and gender of playmates do young boys and girls

prefer. The size of children's play networks, as well as if these networks

change in the size during the preschool years have been explored. Also,

differences in styles of play and the occurrence of positive and negative

interactions have been examined. The effect that parents have on their sons and

daughters, as well as preschool classrooms and teachers have been examined as

possible causes of sex differences during play.

The aim of this paper is to critically review the recent literature in

this field and determine whether or not sex differences occur in play. If sex

differences occur, the possible reasons for this occurrence will also be


Review of the Research Section

Maccoby (1990) summarized a number of studies to support her hypothesis

that suggests different social situations may either heighten or suppress sex

differences in behaviour.

One study was that of social interaction between pairs of young children

(Jacklin & Maccoby, 1978). Pairs of 33-month old children were brought together

in the same-sex or mixed-sex in a laboratory playroom, and the amount and kind

of social behaviour directed more social behaviour, both positive and negative,

to same sex playmates that opposite sex ones. Girls paired with boys were more

likely to stand watching their partners, or withdraw towards an adult, than boys

in any pairing or girls playing with girls. The point brought up in this study

is that interactive behaviour is not just situationly specific, it also depends

on the gender of participants.

Some of the reasons given by Maccoby (1990) for attraction to same sex

partners and avoidance of other sex partners in childhood are the rough play

style of boys and their orientation towards competition and dominance. Another

reason is that girls find it difficult to influence boys. An example of such

reasoning is supported by a study done by Poulishta (1987). Preschool aged boy-

girl pairs were observed competing for an object. The children were given a

chance to use a movie-viewer that could only be used by one child at a time. It

seemed while pairs were alone in the playroom the boys dominated the movie-

viewer. When an adult was present, however, this did not occur, The adult's

presence seemed to inhibit the boy's more power assertive techniques resulting

in equal access. This supports the reason why the attraction to same sex

partners and avoidance of other sex partners in childhood are so strong and also

why girls may also stay nearer to an adult while in a mixed pair.

Black (1989) conducted a study to distinguish between representational

and social pretend play behaviours that are a function of the sex and age of the

players. Black (1989), hypothesised that social skills differ by sex whereas

representational skills differ by age, and the skills related to choice of play

topics are related to age and sex. This study videotaped 52 preschoolers and

later analyzed the videotapes to test hypotheses. Upon analysis, the hypotheses,

was confirmed. Social skills were found to differ as a function of sex. Props

were given to the children to use in their pretend play. It was found that

older girls and younger boys play themes were more likely connected to the props

than the older boys. The older boys preferred more creative topics. Another

sex difference was that girls used more conversation for planning than boys did.

This may have caused less misinterpretations for the play among the girls.

Finally, it was found that boys were much more likely to engage in solitary play

that girls.

A second study investigated the relationship between sex role

flexibility and prosocial behaviour among preschool children (Doescher, &

Sugawara, 1990). Prosocial behaviour are acts that help another person, such as

cooperating, sharing, and helping. This study examined how the variables of

preschool children's sex, age, IQ, and sex role flexibility contributed to their

prosocial behaviour. It was found that sex role flexibility was positively

related to boys' prosocial behaviour, but no such relationship was found among

girls. This could have resulted because possibly when boys take on more

flexible sex role characteristics, they are freer to express prosocial behaviour

which is in contrast to the sex role stereotype of females. When the girls

adopt more flexible sex role characteristics, they would not have as great an

impact because girls have already developed these prosocial skills.

Benenson (1993), designed a study which examined sex differences in

children's preference for a dyadic and group interaction in preschoolers. Two

experiments were conducted, each using puppets. Puppets were chosen instead of

a doll so that it would appeal to both females and males. In the first

experiment, children between 4 and 5 years of age interacted with a female

puppeteer using 1 (dyad) and 3 (group) puppets. Enjoyment of this interaction

was measured by smiling and eye contact. The second experiment replicated the

puppet interaction, except the content and order or presentation of the puppets

was controlled. The subjects in both cases were children from a nursery school

in the Boston area, who came from middle-class families. Evidence was found in

both studies that females preferred dyadic interaction more than males. Some

evidence was found that males preferred group interaction more than females and

that males form larger play groups than females.

It appears that in the play networks of both boys and girls may undergo

transformations in size after 5 years of age. Benenson (1994) conducted a study

to examine this possibility. It was hypothesized that between 4 and 6 years,

the size of boys' play groups increased, while the size of girls' play groups

decreased. Results from the study did not confirm the hypothesis for boys, but

did support the hypothesis for girls. The number of girls excluded from play

groups increased significantly between the ages of 4 and 6. One possibility for

these results is that girls have a preference for less stimulation and are not

as active as boys. This could be self disclosure.

The effect that mothers and fathers have on their preschool children was

studied by (Idle, Wood, and Desmarais, 1993). The interaction between 20 intact

families was observed. Parents were first asked to complete a toy desirability

scale. It was found that parents believed that neutral toys are not specific to

the gender of the child while feminine toys were preferred for girls and

masculine toys preferred for boys. However, this was not the case when the same

parents were actively engaged in play with their child. It was observed that in

general, parents spent the least amount of time with feminine toys. These

results were true regardless of the gender of the parent or the child. It was

found that children accepted most of the toys presented to by their parents and

that their enthusiasm was equal for toys in all three categories.

Turner, Gerval, and Hinde (1993), conducted a study in both Cambridge

(UK) and Budapest (Hungary). The children were interviewed to assess toy

preference, awareness of stereotypes and sex-role preference. The children were

also observed during free play at school. The behaviours observed included

activities, playing with toys, sex of playmates, and social interactions with

peers and teachers. It was found that girls liked female-typical toys, and

showed more female typical behaviour than boys, and vise-versa. It was also

observed that boys liked "sex-appropriate" toys more, and "sex-inappropriate"

toys less than girls. Girls, however, were less stereotyped than boys in their

toy and sex-role preference. In both cultures children were more frequently

observed next to members of their own sex. However, the presence or adults

reduce pressure to associate with one's own sex. This was shown when boys were

near their teachers, the less they played exclusively with boys. When the two

samples were compared, there were no significant differences in toy, sex-role,

or playmate preference, but Budapest children were significantly more masculine

and less feminine on the behavioral measures.

The nature of gender differences in 4-year olds was researched by Hinde,

Tamplin and Barrett (1993). The results of this study showed that individual

characteristics and behaviour differed in a number of ways between boys and


Children prefer same-mixed playmates starting at a very young age

(Maccoby & Jacklin, 1987, cited in Alexander & Hines, 1994). Explanations for

this could include play styles of playmates and the gender of playmates. This

was examined in the study conducted by Alexander and Hines (1994). An interview

was conducted and when gender labels and play styles were presented as

independent dimensions, children showed sex differences for gender labels and

play styles. Boys were found to be more active, played rougher, and proffered

toys such as construction and transportation toys while girls preferred dolls.

When gender labels and play styles were presented as competing dimensions, boys

chose female targets with stereotypical masculine play styles over male targets

with feminine play styles. Preschool girls chose female targets with masculine

play styles, whereas older girls chose male targets with feminine play styles.

Pellegrini and Perimutter (1989), examined the effects of age, sex and

context of preschool classrooms on children's play. The subjects were children

aged 3-5 years. The subjects were observed in three different play areas: art

(drawing, pasting, and painting), replica (wearing dress-up clothes, playing

with kitchen equipment, and playing store), and playing with blocks. It was

found that children engaged in solitary play in the blocks and art areas and

engaged in interactive play in the replica area. Boys were found to use the

blocks area more frequently, and girls used the art areas more frequently, while

both boys and girls played with the replica toys the same. Another finding was

that as girls get older, their play seems to follow sex role expectations more,

in that older girls' play in the blocks area (male oriented) was less advances

than the younger girls' play there.

Summary and Comparison of the Research Section

All of the reviewed literature agreed in finding sex differences in

preschoolers. Sex differences in play occurred in a variety of ways including

the toys they preferred, the activity level, and the roughness of the play

(Alexander & Hines, 1994). Generally, children prefer same-sex playmates over

the opposite sex (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1987, cited in Alexander & Hines, 1994).

The same finding was observed by Turner, et al., (1993). It was discovered,

however, that boys preferred females with masculine play styles over boys with

feminine play styles. Young girls preferred females with masculine play styles,

while older girls chose male targets with feminine play styles (Alexander &

Hines, 1994). This was determined by evaluating the children using an interview


Play styles differed between sexes even when children were pretending.

Older boys were found to be more creative in pretending and didn't connect this

play to props as much as girls or younger boys did (Black, 1989). Pellegrini

and Perimutter (1989), found that both preschool boys and girls equally enjoyed

pretending play.

Benenson (1993), found that girls prefer dyadic interaction more than

boys, and further research found that the size of girls play groups decreased in

size between the ages of 4 and 6 (Benenson, 1994). Black (1989) found that boys

were more likely to engage in solitary play than girls, while Benenson (1993)

found some evidence that males proffered group interaction more than females.

There were many sex differences when children's play with toys was

observed. Pellegrini and Perimutter (1989), found that boys preferred to play

with blocks, while girls played in art areas more frequently than boys. Girls

prefer female-typical toys more than boys and vise versa (Turner, et al., 1993).

Also, boys liked "sex-appropriate" toys more and "sex-inappropriate" toys less

than girls. A possible explanation for this is that when parents are playing

with their children, it was found that they spent the least amount of time with

feminine toys, regardless of the gender of the parent or child (Idle, et al.,


Boys were observed mixing positive and negative interactions more

frequently than girls (Hinde et al., 1993). It was also discovered, that sex

role flexibility was positively related to boys' prosocial behaviour (Doescher &

Sugawara, 1990). Both cases agree that these findings probably resulted due to

the fact that adults tend to treat girls and boys differently and that this is

probably contributes to differences in gender development.


According to recent literature, many sec differences occur in play in

preschoolers. Sex differences occur in many different aspects of play. For

example, the size of the groups that children play in differs with a function of

sex (Benenson, 1993). This study found that girls prefer dyadic interaction,

but fails to find out why this was the case. One possible reason for this is

that because males generally have a grater activity level, this dyadic

interaction is less interesting for them than for females. Also, the puppeteers

in this study were female. Future research should be conducted to determine the

effects of the puppeteer. More studies should also be conducted to determine if

this sex difference is genetic, or learned. Possibly this could be done by

conducting more cross-cultural studies involving cultures different from our own.

Preschoolers play with toys also contains sex differences (Turner, et

al., 1993). These sex differences seem to originate form the child learning

stereotypes from society. Children simply learn to like certain "sex-

appropriate" toys, because they are exposed to them and encouraged to play with

them more often. According to one study (Idle, et al., 1993), children accepted

most toys presented to them by their parents regardless if they were "sex-

appropriate" or not.

Preschoolers also show sex differences in their behaviour during play.

Black (1989), found that boys preferred more creative topics than girls pretend

play and girls used more conversation for planning than boys. One possible

explanation for this is if males found pretend play to be easy, they did not

converse with each other to understand what was going on. Future studies

examine this more closely to try to determine why these sex differences occur.

In a cross-cultural study, it was found that children preferred to play

with members of their own sex. (Turner, et al., 1993). The presence of adults

may reduce this pressure to associate with own's own sex. This may occur

because the adults may pressure the child to associate with the opposite sex, to

the child has learned that adults find it acceptable to interact with members of

the same sex. It seems that the largest factor why children prefer members of

the same sex is because their behaviour is similar. Alexander and Hines (1994),

discovered that boys chose female targets with stereotypical masculine play

styles over male targets with feminine play styles, and girls chose male targets

with feminine play styles. This probably occurs because if one child's play

style is similar to another's, that child will be more interested and will want

to interact with that child much greater than if their play styles differ.

It seems that in many cases sex differences in play in preschoolers are

a result of learned behaviours. Our society seems to play a large role in

determining gender differences because children are encourages to act according

to male of female stereotypes. More studies, especially cross-cultural ones

should be conducted to try to determine why these sex differences occur, because

as of now, no single theory can account completely for childrens's sex

differences in play.


Alexander, G.M., & Hines, M. (1994). Gender labels and play styles: Their

relative contribution to children's selection of playmates. Child Development,

65, 869-879.

Benebson, J.F. (1994). Ages four to six years: Changes in the structure of play

networks of girls and boys. Merril-Palmer Quarterly, 40, 479-487.

Benenson, J.F. (1993). Greater preference among females than males for dyadic

interaction in earily childhood. Child Development, 64. 544-555.

Black, B. (1989). Interactive Pretense: Social and symbolic skills in preschool

play groups. Meril-Palmer Quarterly, 35, 379-394.

Doescher, S.M., & Sugawara, A.I. (1990). Sex role flexability and prosocial

behavior among preschool children. Sex Roles, 22, 111-123.

Hinde, R.A., Tamplin, A.,& Barrett, J. (1993). Gender differences in the

correlates of preschoolers' behavior. Sex Roles, 28, 607-622

Jacklin, C.N., & Maccoby, E.E (1977). Social behavior at 33 months in same sex

and mixed sex dyads. Child Development, 49, 557-569.

Maccoby, E.E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account.

American Psychologist, 45, 513-520.

Idle,.T.,Wood, E. Desmarals, S. (1993). Gender role socialization in toy play

situations: Mothers and Fathers with their sons and daughters. Sex Roles, 28,


Pellegrini, A.D. Perlmutter, J.C. (1989). Classroom contextual effects on

children's play. Developmental Psychology, 25, 289-296.

Turner, P.J.,Gerval, J. Hinde, R.A. (1993). Gender-typing in young children:

Preference, behavior and cultural differences. British Journal of Develepmental

Psychology, 11, 323-342.

Source: Essay UK -

About this resource

This coursework was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

Search our content:

  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

  • Word count:

    This page has approximately words.



    If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

    Essay UK, Gender And Relationship Of Children. Available from: <> [30-05-20].

    More information:

    If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal: