Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My little boy likes girl toys!

This question comes from Airianna in Sioux City, Iowa:

Hi Dr. Pandit, I noticed when walking through the toy aisles in my favorite big box store, that the toys seem to be divided in two groups – that of boy’s toys and girl’s toys.  My 3 year-old boy always wants the girl toys, and won’t even come and look at the things for boys. This made me wonder why there is such a division in the first place, and if I should encourage him to choose only the toys that are made for little boys?

Hello Airianna!  I’m glad you asked this question – I have heard this often from concerned parents. Gender typing develops rapidly in the preschool years.  While heredity, through prenatal hormones, contributes to boys' higher activity level and overt aggression and to children's preference for same-sex playmates, at the same time, parents, teachers, peers, and the broader social environment encourage many gender-typed responses. 

Neither cognitive-developmental theory nor social learning theory provides a complete account of the development of gender identity. Gender schema theory is an information-processing approach to gender typing that combines social learning and cognitive developmental features. 

(1) In this view, young children pick up gender-typed preferences and behaviors from others and organize their experiences into gender schemas, or masculine and feminine categories, that they use to interpret their world.

(2) Once preschoolers can label their own sex, they select gender schemas consistent with it and apply those categories to themselves, creating gender-typed self-perceptions.

Although biology affects children’s gender typing, most aspects of gender typing are not built into human nature. There are ways to reduce gender stereotyping in children:

1. Parents can provide alternatives to traditional gender roles in their own behavior and the alternatives they offer children—for example, in choice of toys.
2. Teachers can ensure that all children spend time in both adult-structured and unstructured activities.
3. All adults can avoid language that conveys gender stereotypes and can shield children from media presentations that do so.
4. Parents and teachers can arrange for children to see men and women pursuing nontraditional careers.
5. By middle childhood, children who hold flexible beliefs about what boys and girls can do are more likely to notice instances of gender discrimination.

In our society, things are changing - Do you think gender roles are important - necessary? Or do you think they are antiquated social expectations that we should try to do away with? Should we influence other cultures to do so? 

Warm regards,
Dr. Pandit

Hines, M. (2005). Brain gender. New York: Oxford University Press. Examines both biological and environmental factors that contribute to sex differences in human behavior.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes - I think gender roles should be less of an expectation and more of a choice.