Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


One of the earliest examples of gender differentiation can be seen in the development of play preferences. Preschool-age children who are beginning to form a stable sense of gender identity tend to be highly stereotyped in their choices of toys and activities. The earliest age at which consistent differences in sex-typed toy choice have been found is 18 months, although some younger children, especially males, show signs of sex-typed choices before this age. The present study tested children cross-sectionally to further investigate the onset of early gender preferences. Subjects were 10 girls and 10 buys in two age groups from a rural town in central Kansas. A 30-minute play session with masculine, feminine, and neutral types was videotaped with a parent present but only observing. Unlike previous studies, the functionality of the toys, wheel and figure, were manipulated and controlled. No statistically significant results were found in this investigation in contrast to other studies with this type of design. There was a trend toward the girls in both groups to choice feminine toys longer than either masculine or neutral toys. The girls in the 12- to 14 month-old age range had higher mean play time with wheeled toys compared to figure toys, whereas the older girls had similar times for wheel and figure toys. The 16- 18- and 12- to 14- month-old boys did not show a trend toward preferring masculine over feminine or neutral toys. However, they did show a trend toward preferring the wheeled toys over the figure toys. Some possible reasons for these findings are discussed.


Robert Markley

Date of Award

Spring 1997

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


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