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Young Children Think Gender-related Behavior Is Inborn

Date:
April 29, 2009
Source:
Society for Research in Child Development
Summary:
A new study surveying more than 450 Americans ages 5-20 confirms that young children think about gender in the same way they think about species. The study also finds that it is not until the age of 10 that children treat gender and species concepts differently. These findings have important implications for how children think about activities that are culturally associated with the other gender (e.g., how girls think about math and science).

Young children think about gender in the same way they think about species of animals. They believe, for example, that a boy's preference for football is innate, as is a girl's preference for dolls, just as cats' behavior is innately different from dogs'.

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That's the finding of a new study from researchers at Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Michigan. The study appears in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

"These results have important implications for how children think about activities that are culturally associated with the other gender, for example, how girls think about science or math," explains Marianne Taylor, assistant professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, who led the study. "By confronting this belief directly, parents and teachers can help encourage girls and boys to explore a wider range of school activities."

The researchers surveyed more than 450 Americans from diverse racial-ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who were 5 years old to college age. The study's findings confirm prior research, which has shown that adults and children alike think different species have deep biological differences, for example, that innate differences cause dogs to behave differently from cats. This study also found that it's not until children are at least 10 that they treat gender and species concepts as distinct from one another, as adults do. At that age, they also understand that environment plays a role in gender-related behaviors.

The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


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The above story is based on materials provided by Society for Research in Child Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Society for Research in Child Development. "Young Children Think Gender-related Behavior Is Inborn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429091624.htm>.
Society for Research in Child Development. (2009, April 29). Young Children Think Gender-related Behavior Is Inborn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429091624.htm
Society for Research in Child Development. "Young Children Think Gender-related Behavior Is Inborn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090429091624.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

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