Sex Roles [sers] PP921-SERS-469419 July 24, 2003 19:51 Style ﬁle version June 3rd, 2002
Sex Roles, Vol. 49, Nos. 7/8, October 2003 (
Preferences and Children’s Use of Gender-Stereotyped
Knowledge About Musical Instruments: Making Judgments
About Other Children’s Preferences
A. C. Harrison
and S. A. O’Neill
A developmental model of gender-stereotype acquisition (Martin, 1989) proposes that by the
age of 8 years children draw upon information about gender-stereotyped interests as well as
other children’s sex when deciding how much other children would like different activities;
younger children rely on sex only when making such decisions. We examined whether the
judgments that children made about other children’s preferences were different from those
that they made about their own preferences for masculine and feminine musical instruments.
Three hundred twelve children aged 8–9 years ranked 6 instruments in order of preference,
and rated on a 4-point scale how much they would like to play each one. Children were then
asked to decide how much other children would like to play each instrument. Only girls’ own
preferences for feminine instruments differed according to the gender-stereotyping of their
most-preferred instrument. Judgments about how much other children would like masculine
and feminine instruments did not differ according to those children’s gender-stereotyped inter-
est. Children made stereotypical predictions about the preferences of children of unknown sex
who played either a masculine or feminine instrument. Implications for a theoretical account
of the development of children’s gender-stereotypes are discussed.
KEY WORDS: gender-stereotypes; gender-stereotype knowledge; social judgments; music.
The theoretical perspective of this research was a
component model of gender-stereotype development
that conceptualizes gender-stereotypes as comprising
two types of associations that link gender-related in-
formation (Deaux & Lewis, 1984; Martin, 1989, 1993;
Martin, Wood, & Little, 1990). First, vertical associa-
tions link sex with gender-related attributes (e.g., that
trucks are for boys). Vertical associations develop at
an early age, for example, even 3-year-olds associate
speciﬁc toys with each sex (e.g., Huston, 1983). These
This research was conducted in partial fulﬁlment of a doctoral
degree at Keele University, United Kingdom.
Psychology Group, School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences,
University of Sussex, East Sussex, United Kingdom.
Department of Psychology, Keele University, United Kingdom.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Psychology
Group, School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences, Univer-
sity of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 9QH, United
Kingdom; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
stereotyped associations are the focus of most previ-
ous work in the literature. Second, horizontal associ-
ations link attributes by a shared relation with mas-
culinity and femininity that allows adults and older
children to infer directly that a child who likes trucks
would also like cars, even if they do not know the sex
of that child. Horizontal associations develop initially
for own-sex relevant information (by approximately
4–6 years of age), and become established for both
own- and other-sex relevant information by the age
of 8 years (e.g., Martin, 1989).
Researchers have examined children’s under-
standing of horizontal associations by telling them
about other girls and boys with either “masculine”
or “feminine” interests and asking them to de-
cide what other activities those children might like
(e.g., Berndt & Heller, 1986; Biernat, 1991; Lobel,
Bar-David, & Gruber, 2000; Martin, 1989). The fo-
cus is the judgments that children make when the
2003 Plenum Publishing Corporation