II. The Scientific Study of Gender Development (Ch. 8 – 2 of 3)
A. Brief Review of Research Findings
1. Parents reinforce sex-typed activities in children as young as 18 months. For example, many
parents respond more positively when their sons play with “boy-type” toys such as tools or trucks,
then when their sons play with “girl-type” toys, such as dolls and jewelry, and the opposite is true
for daughters (Fagot & Hagan, 1991; Leaper & Friedman, 2007).
2. Children show a preference for same-sex friends as early as 3 years of age (Corsaro, Molinari,
Hadley & Sugioka, 2003). As children’s gender knowledge increases from 3-5 years of age, they
pay more attention to same-sex models (Frey & Ruble, 1992). However, children show preferences
for toys that are stereotypically congruent with gender norms as early as 18-24 months, which is
before they can even label themselves as a boy/male or girl/female (Campbell, Shirley & Caygill,
2002; Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colbourne, Sen, & Eichstedt, 2001).
Cognitive factors that influence sex-typed behaviour
3. High levels of stereotypical knowledge can be observed amongst children aged 3 to 4.5. Further
increases in stereotypical knowledge can be observed amongst children between 4.5 and 5 years.
From 3-5 years of age, gender stereotype flexibility is very low. Huston (1983) concluded that after
about 7 years of age, children’s knowledge of stereotypes still continues to increase, but their rigid
acceptance of stereotypes as fixed or being morally right begins to decline (i.e., gender stereotype
flexibility increases around 7 years of age).
4. Alongitudinal study by Trautner, Ruble, Cyphers, Kirsten, Behrendt, and Hartmann (2005) found
that children who showed an early peak of stereotype rigidity showed an earlier onset of stereotype
flexibility, whereas children with a later peak in stereotype rigidity had a later onset of stereotype
flexibility. Additionally, children with a later peak in stereotype rigidity reached a lower level of
flexibility at age 10 (in comparison to the children who showed an early peak in stereotype
3 phases of gender development
1) (3)Acquire gender stereotypes
2) (3-5) Rigidly apply stereotypes
3) (7) Flexible application/understandi