By Cate Nelson, Eco Child’s Play
Are gender differences inborn? Does my son like trucks because he’s as different from girls as cats are from dogs? Boys come out of the womb clutching footballs, girls cuddling dolls?
Probably not, but young kids seem to believe that.
In a U.S. study of 450 kids aged 5-college aged, researchers found that the young ones were more likely to believe that gender differences were nature, not nurture. As in: differences are there because they’re born into you, as species is. The differences are innate, they think.
Interestingly, over time children’s beliefs on gender differences fade, not grow stronger.
By age 10, the participants–diverse across racial and socioeconomic groups–believed closer to what their parents might. That is, that gender and species differences were distinct from one another, and environment plays a role in human sex-based differences.
No Men Are From Mars, then. Marianne Taylor, assistant professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, led the study. She said that parents and teachers could help children by encouraging interest in subjects that were previously thought to be “girls” or “boys” only.
These results have important implications for how children think about activities that are culturally associated with the other gender, for example, how girls think about science or math. By confronting this belief directly, parents and teachers can help encourage girls and boys to explore a wider range of school activities.
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