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Cognitive factors in the development of sex-typed preferences


This study considered how children coordinate their understandings of gender identity and sex stereotypes to produce sex-typed preferences. Sex-typed preferences and gender constancy were assessed at ages 4 through 8 years on a cross section of urban black and white children (N=819). Findings verified that sex-stereotyped preferences are highly developed among young children prior to the period when gender constancy is fully developed. Additionally, by age 5, most children accurately attributed sex-stereotyped preferences to peers of the opposite sex. A distinction was made between a sex stereotype and a same-sex bias as a basis for a sex-typed preference. Gender constancy was shown to strengthen the same-sex bias as a determinant of a sex-typed preference, but this effect was context specific. Under certain conditions sex-stereotyped knowledge constrained the same-sex bias as a determinant of preferential choice.

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This research was supported in part by Grant MH 29458 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

We wish to thank Debra Dash Friedman and Rina Pianko for their assistance, and Dorothy Thayer and Kirsten Yocum for conducting the analyses. Special thanks are extended to the New York City Schools that cooperated in this research.

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Emmerich, W., Shepard, K. Cognitive factors in the development of sex-typed preferences. Sex Roles 11, 997–1007 (1984).

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  • Young Child
  • Social Psychology
  • Gender Identity
  • Cognitive Factor
  • Preferential Choice