Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

18 July 2007

What Big Eyes and Ears You Have!

From Gender Public Advocacy Coalition
Studies Show Toddlers Pick Up Gender Expectations and Cues Early

What Big Eyes and Ears You Have!

WASHINGTON – Just when do children begin learning what is "right" for a boy or girl? A recent study conducted at Brigham Young University found that children at ages as early as 24 months are aware when actions veer away from traditionally masculine and feminine behaviors.

Toddlers in the study, co-authored by Ross Flom - Assistant Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, were shown video monitors of adults performing traditional gendered behavior (a woman applying nail polish and a man shaving) and nontraditional behavior (a woman putting on a tie and a man applying lipstick). The children spent more time watching the nontraditional gender behaviors, apparently recognizing that they are seeing something unfamiliar.

The study follows research from the University of Washington that found 18-month-olds were five times more hesitant to play with a toy after watching an adult express anger at someone else for playing with it. Researchers are calling children's use of adult cues like these to make choices about toys and play "emotional eavesdropping."

But what are the larger implications of these findings? Concealing interests and talents, and even hiding behind a welter of hairstyles, clothes and behaviors that children believe are expected of them, said Taneika Taylor, director of GenderPAC's Children As They Are program.

While the BYU study does not draw conclusions about any judgments that the toddlers may have associated with gender atypical behavior, it demonstrates that activities and behaviors of others are an important factor for children's "attention, perception, learning, and memory about gender stereotypes" from as early as 24 months.

This is an important finding because many researchers previously believed that children didn't begin to use gendered categories and stereotyping activities based on gender until the pre-school age.

"Even in infancy, children are absorbing messages from adults around them about what is acceptable behavior -- down to the toys they play with," said Taylor. "This means we have an extra responsibility as parents or educators to ensure children understand from as early as possible that all of their interests, skills, and talents are welcome, whether or not they are what's expected for boys or girls."

Children As They Are supports parents and educators in creating environments that are safe for all children.
For more information, visit this site.

  • On 7/19/2007 10:49 AM, Blogger Jenn in Holland said…

    And the trouble is getting everyone in a child's life on board with this idea. I was happy to paint my son's nails or give him necklaces to wear only to be thwarted by relatives or strangers who told him "boys don't do that". It's hard enough to get a message of love and acceptance out to your kids, when it seems like at every turn there is some bias or stereotype in the way.
    To be fair, we did give him baby dolls and he drove them like trucks, and when we gave my daughter trucks, she wrapped them up in a blanket and sang to them.

  • On 7/19/2007 10:58 AM, Blogger Jami said…

    My son had 2 Barbies (he asked for them) and 364,972 Hot Wheels and played with them both. Now that he's 11, the Barbies have gone but he and my daughter now fight over who gets to play with the Hot Wheels. She also likes to play with all her stuffed animals. Oddly enough, she's never been all that enamored of Barbies or dolls in general - she thought it was funny to give them to the puppy and watch as he chewed them up. She has no dolls today.


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