Gender Stereotyping in Infancy
Preferences for stereotyped play activities are regarded as one of the earliest, most pervasive, and developmentally consistent demonstration of gender roles in children. In most traditional societies, gender-stereotyped play activities during early childhood are accepted and encouraged as useful preparation for adult roles. (Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, Eichstedt: 2001). But what does this stereotyping consist of and when does this normally start to occur? When looking at the documented literature, girls’ prefer dolls and boys’ prefer cars, trucks, and other types of vehicles. Boys are encouraged to be active, beginning in infancy, and are reported to engage in more obvious motor play than girls, at least by preschool (O’Brien, Huston, 1985). Stereotypically masculine toys, such as trucks and footballs, elicit much more gross motor activity then many stereotypically feminine toys, such as telephones and dolls (Eaton, Von Bargen, Keats, 1981) The value placed on a toy’s sex appropriateness may depend on the child’s understanding that gender is a basis for characterizing people. In recent years, a developmental sequence in the child’s understanding of gender has been identified. The three components consist of labeling, stability, and constancy (Eaton, Von Bargen, Keats, 1981). Labeling toys as being for girls or for boys can influence children’s behaviors in multiple ways. First, children’s exploration of toys varies depending on how a toy is labeled. They tend to look at same-sex-labeled toys more than other-sex-labeled toys. Children also tend to remember the names of objects or toys labeled as being for their own sex than names of objects labeled as being for the other sex (Martin, Eisenbud, Rose, 1995). Children have been observed to display toy preferences that are consistent with gender stereotypes as early as 14 to 20 months of age (Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, Eichstedt, 2001). Research...
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