Gender and Relationships of Children

Gender and Relationship of Children


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Psychology 260.10

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The topic of sex differences in the play preschoolers has been explored by many researchers in the past. Studies have been conducted on basic sex differences such as what toys and gender of playmates do young boys and girls prefer. The size of children\'s play networks, as well as if these networks change in the size during the preschool years have been explored. Also, differences in styles of play and the occurrence of positive and negative interactions have been examined. The effect that parents have on their sons and daughters, as well as preschool classrooms and teachers have been examined as possible causes of sex differences during play.
The aim of this paper is to critically review the recent literature in this field and determine whether or not sex differences occur in play. If sex differences occur, the possible reasons for this occurrence will also be examined.

Review of the Research Section

Maccoby (1990) summarized a number of studies to support her hypothesis that suggests different social situations may either heighten or suppress sex differences in behaviour.
One study was that of social interaction between pairs of young children (Jacklin & Maccoby, 1978). Pairs of 33-month old children were brought together in the same-sex or mixed-sex in a laboratory playroom, and the amount and kind of social behaviour directed more social behaviour, both positive and negative, to same sex playmates that opposite sex ones. Girls paired with boys were more likely to stand watching their partners, or withdraw towards an adult, than boys in any pairing or girls playing with girls. The point brought up in this study is that interactive behaviour is not just situationly specific, it also depends on the gender of participants.
Some of the reasons given by Maccoby (1990) for attraction to same sex partners and avoidance of other sex partners in childhood are the rough play style of boys and their orientation towards competition and dominance. Another reason is that girls find it difficult to influence boys. An example of such reasoning is supported by a study done by Poulishta (1987). Preschool aged boy-girl pairs were observed competing for an object. The children were given a chance to use a movie-viewer that could only be used by one child at a time. It seemed while pairs were alone in the playroom the boys dominated the movie-viewer. When an adult was present, however, this did not occur, The adult\'s presence seemed to inhibit the boy\'s more power assertive techniques resulting in equal access. This supports the reason why the attraction to same sex partners and avoidance of other sex partners in childhood are so strong and also why girls may also stay nearer to an adult while in a mixed pair.
Black (1989) conducted a study to distinguish between representational and social pretend play behaviours that are a function of the sex and age of the players. Black (1989), hypothesised that social skills differ by sex whereas representational skills differ by age, and the skills related to choice of play topics are related to age and sex. This study videotaped 52 preschoolers and later analyzed the videotapes to test hypotheses. Upon analysis, the hypotheses, was confirmed. Social skills were found to differ as a function of sex. Props were given to the children to use in their pretend play. It was found that older girls and younger boys play themes were more likely connected to the props than the older boys. The older boys preferred more creative topics. Another sex difference was that girls used more conversation for planning than boys did. This may have caused less misinterpretations for the play among the girls. Finally, it was found that boys were much more likely to engage in solitary play that girls.
A second study investigated the relationship between sex role flexibility and prosocial behaviour among preschool children (Doescher, & Sugawara, 1990). Prosocial behaviour are acts that help another person, such as cooperating, sharing, and helping. This study examined how the variables of preschool children\'s sex, age, IQ, and sex role flexibility contributed to their prosocial behaviour. It was found that sex role flexibility was positively related to boys\' prosocial behaviour, but no such relationship was found among girls.