Boys will be boys: kids think gender-related behavior is inborn

May 4, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Small children tend to believe boys are born to like football and girls are born to like dolls—much in the same way that cats are born different from dogs, research shows.

The new study offers important implications for how children think about activities that are culturally associated with particular genders, said University of Michigan psychology researchers Susan Gelman and Marjorie Rhodes, and Pacific Lutheran University professor Marianne Taylor. The research is featured in the journal Child Development.

"By confronting this belief directly, parents and teachers can help encourage girls and boys to explore a wider range of school activities," Gelman said.

The researchers surveyed more than 450 Americans from diverse racial-ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who were 5 years old to college age. The study's findings confirm prior research, which has shown that adults and children alike think different species have deep biological differences, for example, that innate differences cause dogs to behave differently from cats.

When children are at least 10, according to the research, they begin to treat gender and species concepts as distinct from one another. At that age, they also understand that environment plays a role in gender-related behaviors.

Researchers used a "switched at birth" test developed by Gelman where children are told stories about babies (either human or animals) born in one family but raised in another, asking children to pit the notions of nature versus nurture.

"Younger children typically endorse innate and internal causes for both physical and behavioral properties and tend to reject environmental influences," Gelman said. "With age, increasingly distinguish between and animal species and develop a new conceptual framework.''

The study appears in Volume 80, Issue 2 of the journal Child Development.

Provided by University of Michigan (news : web)

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tomkparker
5 / 5 (1) May 04, 2009
After many many nature / nurture conversations with friends and my own experience, I have concluded that there is a fundamental difference in the nature of boys and girls from day one. After raising children in what we believe is an enlightened household our daughter still gravitated to girlish things, while our son gravitated to boyish things despite our efforts to give them both a balanced view of the world in activities and opportunities available, both physical and mental. My friends, who I believe are similar to us have had the same experience.
That said, I am not taking into account what society does to their view of what's possible. An example of this is when, at the time, my 11 year old daughter was shocked to find out that Danica Patrick could be a race car driver. I was equally shocked that she didn't realize that already, as we have made every effort to suggest to her that the world is her oyster and all is available to her, just as anyone else.

Tom P
Mauricio
not rated yet May 04, 2009
Young children are right.

It should include that some men have high levels of female hormones and some females have high levels of male hormones. That explains the "exceptions" observed when some women exhibit typically male behaviors and when some men exhibit typically feminine behaviors.

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