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How Gender Biases a Child's Play

Preschoolers are more likely to cooperate when their peers attend to their cooperative behaviors... Children who view other children sharing, expressing sympathy, or helping someone are more likely to do so themselves [Eisenberg, 1992].

Although the influential role of peers in the emotional development of a child goes without question, the issue of gender is highly controversial. Some researchers cite clear gender distinctions in the early years. ``The learning of sex roles begins in the preschool years, and by the end of that period, the behavior of boys and girls has become different in many ways... Boys play much more with objects, such as building blocks and trucks; they do more outside activities, like riding tricycles and playing in the sand box; and they fight a lot more'' [Fischer, 1984]. Others argue that no such distinction is apparent. ``Children do not display gender differences in empathy when empathy is assessed with facial/gestural or vocal measures. Gender differences in empathy may be an artifact of the method of measurement'' (Hoffman (1984)). ``Although girls may perform some types of prosocial behaviors more than boys do, there are no clear sex differences in pro social behavior'' [Eisenberg, 1992].

Dana L Kirsch
Tue May 25 08:59:22 EDT 1999