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Parental Gender Beliefs and Attitudes Involving Child’s Toy Play

From birth, children acquire the first set of social and emotional skills from parents. Despite children are born with sex differences, their gender identities stem from early years of socialization. Development of gender identities has been a topic of interests over the years, with many findings suggesting parental gender beliefs play a huge role in forming our gender identities. A study showed the crucial roles parents play in gender development through involvement in organizing activities, providing or limiting access to specific toys, and providing feedback on children’s interests and behaviors (Goldberg et. al., 2013). Children were found to show gender-stereotyped toy and activity choices, with boys choosing more masculine toys and play behavior (e.g., trucks/cars, balls, swords/guns, rough play) and girls choosing more feminine stereotyped toys and play (e.g., dolls, kitchen/tea/food sets, stuffed animals) as early as 18 months as suggested by Goldberg (2012). A longitudinal study, assessing the preschoolers at ages three, four, and five, found that most sex-typed behaviors increased in rigidity as children aged (Halim, Rubie, Tamis-LeMonda, and Shrout, 2013). Their findings further revealed increases in sex segregated play from three to five years of age. Gender-typed appearance also decreased over time, suggesting inflexibility in gender stereotyped attitudes. When studying perceptions of three year old and five year old children on gender-based toys, as well as, predictions of their parents’ gender stereotypes on toys, it showed that preschool age children have already constructed their own stereotypes of what can be defined as “girl toys” or “boy toys”. The results also demonstrate that children think their parents are supportive of their gender-stereotypical toy choices, but less supportive of their cross-gender toy choices. However, parental views on toys that are appropriate for different genders showed inconsistencies in indicating a desire for their children to be free from gender stereotypes, yet they still expressed their preference for their children to play with gender-stereotypical toys (Freeman, 2007). A study examining how a child’s level of gender-typed knowledge is related to the child’s family structure found that children raised by single mothers had less gender-typed knowledge and had more of an androgynous view during play time (Hupp, Smith, Coleman, and Brunell, 2010). However, our previous lab data showed single-mother households had children who tended to have stricter gender play rather than androgynous gender play. This study is thus designed to further examine parental beliefs and attitudes in relation to child’s gender development and beyond. Specifically, the present study aims to explore parental beliefs and attitudes in endorsing gender related behaviors and toys in relation to the sex of their child. The data for this study is being collected from preschool programs in the Southeastern United States through a larger intervention program promoting social competence. Over 50 parents with children ages of 3-5 years old filled out a parental survey. The survey consists of a wide range of behavioral items for parents to endorse whether they are comfortable for their child to engage in. Parental explicit attitudes about what toys they would purchase for their children are compared with their implicit attitude about what toys they are comfortable for their children to play with. It is expected that mothers of boys are more restrictive about what toys they would purchase and allow their sons to play with than mothers of girls. Results and implications will be shared at the conference.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Event location
    • Nesbitt 1201

  • Event date
    • 3 November 2018

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022