Will They Listen to Me? An Examination of In-Group Gender Bias in Children’s Communication Beliefs
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We assessed developmental and gender differences in children’s beliefs about their peers’ communication styles. We hypothesized that children hold more favorable beliefs (i.e., more responsiveness and less interruption) about communicating with same-gender peers than with other-gender peers. We also explored whether these beliefs related to children’s friendships and expectations that they will feel included or discomfort with their peers. Participants (n = 311) were 159 U.S. third-graders (Mage = 7.13, SD = .49, 52% girls) and 152 U.S. fifth-graders (Mage = 9.08, SD = .71, 46% girls). Children showed in-group biases: They expected more positive responses when communicating with same-gender versus other-gender peers. These patterns were stronger in girls and younger children. Beliefs about interruption varied by gender: girls expected girls to interrupt less than boys, and boys thought boys and girls interrupt equally often. Finally, the more children believed that they would receive positive communication responsiveness, the more friends, the more inclusion, and the less discomfort they expected with same- and other-gender peers. The more they expected interruptions, the less included and more discomfort they reported. The results suggest that children’s communication beliefs may perpetuate same-gender preferences; however, promoting mixed-gender interactions may help children cultivate beliefs and skills needed to function successfully in mixed-gender contexts.
KeywordsCommunication Friendship Gender Interruptions In-group bias Inclusion Homophily
The research was supported by the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics as part of the Children’s Attitudes Relationships and Education (CARE) Project, which is a Lives of Girls and Boys Initiative. The authors would like to thank Diane Ruble, William Green, and Richard Fabes for providing inspiration for the development of the scale and to Diane Ruble for her contributions to the conceptualization of the idea of communicative responsiveness.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The authors declare no conflict of interest. Further, all procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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