Study Confirms Gender Is Not Social Construct

Jan 9, 2018

A recent study authored by John A. Barry of Institute for Women’s Health at University College London found that children overwhelmingly chose to play with toys typed to their gender. Boys played with male–typical toys more than girls did, and girls played with female–typical toys more than boys did.

The study, “Sex differences in children’s toy preferences: A systematic review, meta-regression, and meta-analysis,” which was published in Infant and Child Development, reviewed 16 studies, from 1980 to 2016, of 787 boys and 813 girls ranging in age from one to eight years.

Barry and his colleagues looked at preferences for gender-specific toys and considered factors such as the presence of an adult, study setting, presence of gender–neutral toys and gender equality of the country. The studies were conducted in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel and China. The researchers excluded studies that relied on self-reported data from parents or children. Instead, the 16 studies in the meta–analysis were all observational studies of children in free play.

Previous research has found that children as young as nine months old prefer to play with toys specific to their own gender. As a result of this recent study, the scientists found that, in general, children chose toys aimed at their specific gender. They concluded that “gender differences in toy choice exist and appear to be the product of both innate and social forces. Despite methodological variation in the choice and number of toys offered, context of testing, and age of child, the consistency in finding sex differences in children's preferences for toys typed to their own gender indicates the strength of this phenomenon and the likelihood that has a biological origin. The time playing with male-typed toys increased as boys got older, but the same pattern was not found in girls; this indicates that stereotypical social effects may persist longer for boys or that there is a stronger biological predisposition for certain play styles in boys.”

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