Sugar, spice and puppy dog tails: Developing sex-typed personality traits and interests

April 29, 2009

A new longitudinal study of children's personality traits and interests tells us that sex-typed characteristics develop differently in girls and boys. The study, by researchers at The Pennsylvania State University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Purdue University, appears in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at first- and second-born siblings from nearly 200 mostly White, middle-class American families. They collected information through home interviews conducted over seven years, activity diaries provided by the children, and samples that measured the children's .

Not surprisingly, girls and boys differed in their sex-typed personality qualities and their sex-typed activity interests in early adolescence, with girls showing higher levels of expressive traits (such as kindness and sensitivity) and interest in "feminine" activities (such as the arts and reading), and boys showing higher levels of instrumental traits (such as independence and adventurousness) and interest in "masculine" activities (such as sports and math).

Girls' stereotypically feminine, expressive traits didn't change over time. In contrast, boys' sensitivity and warmth declined substantially across middle childhood but increased in later adolescence so that by about age 19, boys reported about the same levels of sensitivity and warmth as girls. For stereotypically masculine traits such as independence and adventurousness, girls showed increases only in middle childhood, but in boys, these traits rose across adolescence. This pattern meant that by the end of high school, boys had many more of these characteristics than girls.

The study also found that changes in girls' and boys' and interests were related to how they spent their time. In general, girls who spent time with other females developed female personality characteristics, and boys who pursued activities with other males developed male characteristics. Time with female peers was the exception: and girls who spent time with friends who were increased in independence and adventurousness.

The research also found that interests and traits developed differently in first-born children than in children born second. For example, second-born children showed increases in traits like adventurousness and independence across adolescence, whereas in firstborns, these traits did not change much over time. These findings are consistent with the idea that first-borns conform more, while second-borns are more likely to rebel. Finally, children who showed faster rates of increase in the hormone testosterone in early adolescence weren't as affected by social influences on their personality development.

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Gene therapy improves immunity in babies with 'bubble boy' disease

December 9, 2017
Early evidence suggests that gene therapy developed at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will lead to broad protection for infants with the devastating immune disorder X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disorder. ...

In lab research, scientists slow progression of a fatal form of muscular dystrophy

December 8, 2017
In a paper published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, Saint Louis University (SLU) researchers report that a new drug reduces fibrosis (scarring) and prevents loss of muscle function in an animal model of Duchenne ...

Double-blind study shows HIV vaccine not effective in viral suppression

December 7, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada has conducted a randomized double-blind study of the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine and has found it to be ineffective in suppressing the virus. In ...

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

December 7, 2017
Our body has an internal biological or "circadian" clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the ...

Novel harvesting method rapidly produces superior stem cells for transplantation

December 7, 2017
A new method of harvesting stem cells for bone marrow transplantation - developed by a team of investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute - appears to accomplish ...

Inhibiting TOR boosts regenerative potential of adult tissues

December 7, 2017
Adult stem cells replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues throughout our lifetime. We lose many of those stem cells, along with their regenerative capacity, as we age. Working in flies and mice, researchers at ...

0 comments

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.