Study finds children as young as nine months old prefer gender specific toys

Children as young as nine months old show preferences for toys specific to their own gender. — AFP pic
Children as young as nine months old show preferences for toys specific to their own gender. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, July 20 — From as early as nine months old, boys and girls may actually prefer playing with toys typed to their gender, according to a recent study from City University London and UCL, both in the UK. 

Researchers observed 101 children during independent play at British nurseries without the presence of their parents. Using a sample set of toys, the researchers investigated what kind of toys boys and girls freely choose to play with at various stages of development.

The set of toys used in the study featured a doll, a pink teddy bear, a cooking pot, a car, a blue teddy bear, a digger and a ball.

The scientists studied children in three different age groups: 40 children aged between nine and 17 months, when children can show preferences for specific toys; 29 children aged between 18 and 23 months, when children experience key advances in gender knowledge; and 32 children aged 24 to 32 months, when knowledge becomes further established.

The scientists found that stereotypical toy preferences occurred even in the youngest age group. Across all three groups, and from as young as nine months old, girls and boys both chose toys typed for their specific gender.

The ball was the most popular choice for boys in the youngest age group, whereas girls preferred the cooking pot. 

Although the trend was observed in children up to three years old, with age, both boys and girls showed an increasing preference for toys stereotyped for boys.

From a biological point of view, the researchers found aptitudes specific to each sex were reflected in the children’s choice of toys. Boys have a particular aptitude for spatial processing and mental rotation, for example, whereas girls are more interested in looking at faces, fine motor skills and manipulating objects.

The researchers esteem that girls and boys follow different developmental trajectories which can influence their choices before they develop awareness of sexual identity.

Ultimately, the study concludes that there are biological, as well as developmental and environmental factors at play in the sex differences seen in children’s object preferences.

The study was published in the journal Infant and Child Development’ and is available here. — AFP-Relaxnews

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