ABC's of gender

Toddlers take note of gender roles -- especially when they're subverted.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
June 16, 2007 3:22AM (UTC)
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Our children is learning, it turns out. Learning about gender stereotypes, that is. When Mom's busying herself in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the family, or Dad's watching the game and throwing back some beers with the boys, toddlers are studying gender roles, according to a new study (via Jezebel). It was generally assumed that it wasn't until preschool -- when kids split into gender segregated groups -- that they started to recognize gender stereotypes or expectations. But researchers from Brigham Young University found that 2-year-olds are well aware of socially prescribed gender roles and when they're being subverted.

The recently published study found that toddlers spent more time looking at a video depicting a man or woman adhering to nontraditional gender roles (like a man putting on lipstick) versus footage of stereotypically gendered behavior. They paid more attention to the nontraditional behavior because it was unfamiliar to them, according to the study's author, Ross Flom. Researchers also found that parents who exhibit strongly gendered behavior will have kids who do the same.


This goes to show what most parents already know all too well: They're watching you. (Do-do-do-do.) Flom says, "They're very active -- which could be kind of frightening for parents [thinking], 'Holy cow, our 2-year-old is picking up on these subtleties. Imagine what else they're picking up on.'"

Tracy Clark-Flory

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