Gender segregation is often explained by children being interested in interacting with other children who behave similarly to themselves. Children’s beliefs about girls and boys (i.e., their gender cognitions) may also play a role in gender segregation, but this idea has received little attention. In this study, we proposed a model of gender segregation that included similarity on gender-typed behavioral qualities (e.g., rough and tumble play) and gender cognitions concerning perceived similarity to same-gender others, and we assessed whether this more comprehensive heuristic model predicted observed peer interactions in young U.S. children (n = 74; M age = 51 m; middle-class families). A multi-method design was employed including observations of behavior and child reports of gender cognitions. Support was found for the linkages proposed in this comprehensive model for boys; partial support was found for girls. Specifically, the inclusion of gender cognitions was supported for both genders: gender cognitions about perceived similarity related to interactional partner choices for both girls and boys, and accounted for variance in observed partner choices even after behavioral similarity was included in the model. The traditional link concerning behavioral similarity on rough-and-tumble play predicted boys’ but not girls’ interactions. The findings extend knowledge about the role of social cognitions in social behavior, and are consistent with ideas proposed by gender schema theory and other constructivist theories.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 29, 2011
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