Previous research has demonstrated that women smile more frequently and more broadly than men (Abel 2002; LaFrance et al. 2003). However, little research has focused specifically on the age at which this gender difference first emerges, and even less on the ethnic differences in smiling. This study attempts to identify the age when gender differences in smiling emerge among European American and African American children and teenagers. Additionally, we looked at the level of diversity within each school and its relation to smiling behavior. In total, 18,201 yearbook photographs ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade from 17 schools in the state of Michigan were evaluated for smile type: full smile, partial smile or no smile. Results suggest that a significant gender difference in smiling emerges around age 11. In contrast to other studies (e.g., LaFrance et al. 2003) and our own expectations, differences in smiling were found to be larger between African American boys and girls than between European American boys and girls. In addition, we found that African American girls’ smiling behavior did not differ as a function of school diversity while African American boys from predominantly African American schools displayed less smiling compared to those from mixed or predominantly European-American schools. This study provides insight into the emergence and progression of gender differences in smiling and indicates that gender as well as ethnicity and ethnic diversity are influential factors in smiling behavior.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 17, 2012
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