Kids have skewed view of gender segregation

A study led by Michigan State University found that boys and girls had no problems being friends together but for some reason had a perception that only boys played with boys and girls played with girls. Credit: Michigan State University

Children believe the world is far more segregated by gender than it actually is, implies a new study led by a Michigan State University scholar.

Jennifer Watling Neal and colleagues examined classroom friendships in five U.S. elementary schools. Their findings, published in the journal Child Development, found boys and girls had no problems being friends together but for some reason had a perception that only boys played with boys and girls played with girls.

"Kids believe plays a larger role in friendship that it actually does," said Neal, assistant professor of psychology.

Children who have more accurate perceptions of the around them may be better able to avoid conflict and have more positive interactions with their peers, Neal said.

The findings also have implications when the students grow up.

"In adulthood," Neal said, "we know that people who have accurate perceptions of workplace relationships tend to be perceived as more powerful and have better reputations than their colleagues."

The study of 426 second- through fourth-graders found gender is still important in the formation of friendships; children were nine times more likely to be friends if they were the same gender.

However, when asked about their friends' friends, a child was 50 times more likely to believe two classmates were when they were the same gender.

"Thus, while gender does matter a great deal in the formation of children's , children think it is nearly the only relevant factor," Neal said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Kindergarten friendships matter, especially for boys

Nov 29, 2011

High-quality friendships in kindergarten may mean that boys will have fewer behavior problems and better social skills in first and third grades, said Nancy McElwain, a University of Illinois associate professor of human ...

Gender identity and single-sex schools

Dec 11, 2013

Newspaper headlines worldwide tout the benefits of single-sex schools: Girls 75% more likely to take math if they go to a single-sex private school, Will boys learn better if girls aren't allowed? Single-sex education is ...

Recommended for you

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
not rated yet Jan 09, 2014
Even preschoolers are aware of the differences between boys and girls, epsecially regarding their individual interests. Ask them.
RMQ
not rated yet Jan 09, 2014
It is funny that the author do not consider for one moment that the children might be right and she is wrong.
Many of my adult male heterosexual men friends, do not like to hang around with women either. One can't ask men around, because they will give the politically correct answer, or they can lose their jobs or clients. But the truth is that today nothing compares to be with a group of male friends. Once a woman is in the group, fun drops fast. I even met 1960's feminists that knew that men and women tend naturally to separate, as many traditional religions tend to do still today. Sex and affection used to be what kept men and women together, but since it is not fashionable to see women as "sex objects", and it is not nice to be"needy",then the distance between the groups keeps increasing.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.