Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language: Essays in Honor of Susan Ervin-Tripp

By Dan Isaac Slobin; Julie Gerhardt et al. | Go to book overview

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"SEPARATE WORLDS FOR GIRLS AND BOYS"? VIEWS FROM U.S. AND CHINESE MIXED-SEX FRIENDSHIP GROUPS

Amy Kyratzis
University of California, Santa Barbara

Jiansheng Guo
Victoria University of Wellington


INTRODUCTION

Issues of gender, from both an academic and political standpoint, have concerned Sue Ervin-Tripp through much of her research career ( Ervin-Tripp, O'Connor, & Rosenberg, 1984; Ervin-Tripp & Lampert, 1992). Both in her research and political life, Ervin-Tripp has been concerned with power differentials existing between females and males in U.S. society, how these are created in talk, and how they are socialized. As a tribute to Sue, we take on here an important and controversial claim that has been made in the literature on the socialization of gender differences -- the "Separate Worlds Hypothesis." According to this hypothesis, girls and boys spend much of their time during the preschool and elementary school years in same-sex friendship groups, with boys playing mainly with other boys and girls playing mainly with other girls ( Maccoby, 1990; Maltz & Borker, 1982). As a result, girls and boys evolve very separate and different "cultures," involving different interaction styles and goals for interactive exchanges ( Maltz & Borker, 1982; Tannen, 1990). Girls' interactive style focuses on the goal of intimacy establishment and maintenance. When girls get together, they make suggestions and are concerned with group rather than self goals. They tend to avoid conflict and competition, at least in an explicit, unmitigated form ( Sheldon, 1992). Boys' interactive style focuses on the goal of one-upsmanship and hierarchy-establishment. When boys get together, they give orders rather than make suggestions, are explicitly contentious, and are concerned with

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We gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments and insights about their native cultures of Qing Xiao ( Clark University) and Li-ling Sun ( University of California, Santa Barbara), and those of Sikhung Ng, Ann Weatherall (both of Victoria University of Wellington), and the social psychology research group of Victoria University of Wellington.

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