Gender roles are the role of language development in young children social and behavioral norms considered appropriate in social situations for people of different genders. Expectations for children’s future adult lives, like financial success or future care giving, may lead parents to encourage certain behaviors in children. However, most parental behaviors remain uninfluenced by the gender of the child, including speaking to, playing, teaching, and caretaking.
Family dynamics can especially influence gender specialization. Parents of sons are more likely to express conservative gender role views than parents of daughters, with fathers emphasizing the paternal breadwinning role for males. Children’s toy preferences are significantly related to parental sex-typing, such as girls playing with dolls and boys participating in sports. In early childhood, gender roles become apparent in patterns of play. Until 1983, these play differences were ignored in studies of the differences between boys and girls, but recent research has shed light on these sex differences.
This time period is especially crucial because if a child’s fundamental movement skills do not develop properly, then their future development will be drastically impacted. This study took 425 preschool children and asked them to perform specific fundamental movement skills such as locomotor and object control skills. One of the earliest signs of gender differences in play patterns is the appearance of gender-segregated play groups and toy preferences. Boys tend to be more “rough and tumble” in their play while girls shy away from this aggressive behavior, leading to the formation of separate play groups. Calvert 2013 In addition, boys tend to gravitate more towards toys such as trucks while girls tend to gravitate towards dolls, but these preferences are not absolutes. One of the most compelling theories in regards to biologically determined gender differences is the idea that male-preference and female-preference for toys are mediated by inequities in visual processing. The central claim is that males and females are preprogrammed to specialize in certain forms of perception: specifically, perception of motion and perception of form and color, respectively.
Specifically, male M-cell pathway dominance is connected back to motion mediated activities like hunting and the throwing of projectiles. Female P-cell dominance is tied to foraging for plants, a task requiring discrimination between colors and memory of form. Another study by Alexander and Saenz found that two-year-old girls preferred toys that were typically associated with females over those associated with males, but, again, interestingly, two-year-old boys showed only a small preference for masculine toys over feminine toys. In one study by Eric W. Lindsey and Jacquelyn Mize, context can have a big effect on the types of activities children will partake in.