Friday, February 19, 2010

gender stereotyping of children

(Here's another post that's been in the queue for months. I'm just going to post it as is...)

I've been attending baby showers for several years now, and I've realized that gender stereotypes start to be enforced even before babies are born. The types of clothes, toys, and other gifts that people buy for girl babies and boy babies are noticeably different.

It made me wonder if it would be to a child's benefit to hide its gender for a few years, so that unconscious stereotypes wouldn't affect its mental and even physical development at such a young age?

That idea was still floating around in my head a few months ago when I ran across a Newsweek article entitled Pink Brain, Blue Brain addressing a similar topic. The article discusses Lise Eliot's (similarly named) new book, which cites a couple of particularly interesting studies. I've excerpted the parts that I found intriguing and insightful, below.

In one [study], scientists dressed newborns in gender-neutral clothes and misled adults about their sex. The adults described the "boys" (actually girls) as angry or distressed more often than did adults who thought they were observing girls, and described the "girls" (actually boys) as happy and socially engaged more than adults who knew the babies were boys.

In another study, mothers estimated how steep a slope their 11-month-olds could crawl down. Moms of boys got it right to within one degree; moms of girls underestimated what their daughters could do by nine degrees, even though there are no differences in the motor skills of boys and girls.

6 and 12-month-olds of both sexes prefer dolls to trucks...they settle into sex-based play preferences only around age 1, which is when they grasp what sex they are, identify strongly with it, and confirm to how they see other, usually older, boys or girls behaving.

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