Children Less Than A Year Old Already Favour Gender-Typical Toys
Dr Brenda Todd and Sara Amalie O´Toole Thommessen from City University presented 90 infants aged nine months to 36 months with seven different toys, some were stereotypically boy's toys - a car, a digger, a ball and a blue teddy, and some were stereotypically girl's toys - a pink teddy, a doll and a cooking set. The infants were placed one metre away from the toys, and could pick which ever toys they pleased. Their choice of toy, and the amount of time each child spent playing with each toy was recorded.
The infants showed a strong preference for the toys which were stereotypically representative of their own gender. Of the youngest children (9-14 months), girls spent significantly longer playing with the doll than boys, and boys spent significantly more time playing with the car and ball than the girls. No association was found between parents' self-reported views on which toys were more appropriate for boys or girls or their report of gender-typed activities at home.
Sara Amalie O´Toole Thommessen said: "It was very obvious that even the youngest children went straight for gender-typed toys and colours. Boys went straight for the ball and the black car, and girls went to the teddy bear and the doll". Dr Brenda Todd added: "We were surprised to find the differences so early."
This study is the first to find such consistent and stable differences in toy choices between genders in children younger than 18 months. The findings fit with similar studies with monkeys, and raise the possibility that there is a biological bias in children to play with gender-typed toys.
"Children of this age are already subject to a great deal of socialisation," said Dr Todd, "but these findings are consistent with the idea of an intrinsic bias in children to show interest in particular kinds of toys."
This research was undertaken by undergraduate Sara Amalie O' Toole Thommessen supervised by Dr Brenda Todd as part of a Student Research Bursary funded by the Experimental Psychology Society.
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