Magazine article Working Mother

Gender Wise

Magazine article Working Mother

Gender Wise

Article excerpt

You usually wear pants to work, but your 4-year-old daughter insists on wearing dresses all the time. Your husband loves to read and listen to music, but your son's fantasy play is all about sports and action heroes. It's surprising how easily little kids fall into stereotypical gender behaviors-even when we think we're sending free-to-be-yourself messages. What gives?

Children notice gender differences as young as age 2. They begin to understand words like "boy," "girl," "lady" and "guy" and apply these labels to themselves. So by preschool age, their comprehension of gender images and behavior is solidifying. This understanding is influenced by several factors, some biological, says Diane N. Ruble, PhD, a professor of psychology at New York University. "We don't knowthe full extent, but hormones do influence gender, physically and behaviorally," she explains.

Socialization is also an influence. At home we give gender clues by the colors we pick for our kids' rooms and clothes, the toys we offer them, the offhand remarks we make ("He throws like a girl") and what we wear, do and say. At preschool a child picks up gender messages from peers and other adults as well. And we may limit TV, but we can't rule out media influences-think magazine pictures, billboards, cartoons.

"Preschoolers are consumed with gender identity, but sometimes they get it wrong," says Dr. Ruble. "They make assumptions-sometimes inaccurate-based on what their parents do." For example, if you always drink coffee, your child might think that's a woman's drink, or if your husband drinks tea, chalk that up to his being a man. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.