Room for Improvement: Girls’ and Boys’ Home Environments are Still Gendered

Decades ago, Rheingold and Cook (1975) observed marked gender-typing of preschool children’s playthings and room furnishings. Our purpose was to determine whether this form of implicit gender socialization has been altered by cultural shifts toward more egalitarian attitudes. We also examined potential predictors of children’s room contents, including parents’ self-perceived gender-stereotypical personality traits (i.e., expressivity and instrumentality), sibling composition, and preschool experience as a proxy for exposure to peer pressure to conform to gender norms. In-depth cataloging of 75 U.S. preschoolers’ room contents (n = 39 girls) found significant gender differences that were consistent with the gender-typing documented decades ago. Multilevel modeling showed parents’ expressivity and instrumentality largely to be unrelated to their child’s gender-typed playthings. Also, children in families with same-gender siblings, and girls who had spent more time in preschool, had more gender-typed playthings. Thus, the gender-typing of children’s playthings is attributable to multiple pathways, although familial contributors were minimal in our study. We discuss implications for toy advertising and how parents can be astute consumers, as well as strategies to create gender-neutral preschool classrooms and home environments. © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature

Decades ago, Rheingold and Cook (1975) observed marked gender-typing of preschool children’s playthings and room furnishings. Our purpose was to determine whether this form of implicit gender socialization has been altered by cultural shifts toward more egalitarian attitudes. We also examined potential predictors of children’s room contents, including parents’ self-perceived gender-stereotypical personality traits (i.e., expressivity and instrumentality), sibling composition, and preschool experience as a proxy for exposure to peer pressure to conform to gender norms. In-depth cataloging of 75 U.S. preschoolers’ room contents (n = 39 girls) found significant gender differences that were consistent with the gender-typing documented decades ago. Multilevel modeling showed parents’ expressivity and instrumentality largely to be unrelated to their child’s gender-typed playthings. Also, children in families with same-gender siblings, and girls who had spent more time in preschool, had more gender-typed playthings. Thus, the gender-typing of children’s playthings is attributable to multiple pathways, although familial contributors were minimal in our study. We discuss implications for toy advertising and how parents can be astute consumers, as well as strategies to create gender-neutral preschool classrooms and home environments. © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature

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