#research: gender, socialisation and early sexism – @ConversationUK

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Researchers have shown that by age one (and in some studies, as early as three months old), children show clear preferences for gender-consistent toys (eg trucks for boys, dolls for girls). This occurs even if they have only been exposed to gender-neutral toys, or had equal access to both “boys” and “girls” toys.

So, does this mean that kids as young as three months are aware of their gender?

No. It’s not until about age three that children have a basic understanding of gender identity – but even then, it’s pretty tenuous.

At this age, it’s not uncommon for kids to still be confused regarding gender – for example, a girl thinking she will grow up to be a man, or a boy referring to his mum as “him”.

However, the emergence of basic gender identity helps us to explain why by age three children prefer to play with same-sex peers and engage in gender-stereotyped play.

Researchers have suggested that this shows children understand the differences between genders and are aware that they “fit” better with one gender than the other.

Gender constancy – that is understanding that being male or female is a fixed personal attribute – does not develop completely until around age six to seven.

Gender constancy develops as a result of cognitive development (so children are able to understand more abstract concepts like gender), as well as learning about social expectations for their behaviour. Psychologists refer to this as “socialisation”.

Source/ rest: theconversation.com