Do Girls and Boys Have Different Cultures?
. . . a play of differences that is always on the move, and can neither be reduced to gender nor considered apart from them.
-- Edward Snow. "The Play of Sexes in Bruegel's Children's Games"
A familiar story line runs through the literature on gender and the social relations of children. The story opens by emphasizing patterns of mutual avoidance between boys and girls and then asserts that this daily separation results in, and is perpetuated by, deep and dichotomous gender differences. Groups of girls and groups of boys have contrasting ways of bonding and expressing antagonism and conflict; they act upon different values and pursue divergent goals; in many ways they live in separate worlds The story often concludes by drawing lessons for adults.1 For example, in one popularized version, Deborah Tannen argues that because they grew up in the gender-separated worlds of childhood, adult men and women are locked into patterns of miscommunication, with women repeatedly seeking intimacy, while men are preoccupied with marking status.2
Reading the social science literature and sorting through my own observations, I have circled around and around this influential