Children are buying into the stereotypes promoted by media messaging. And they’re accepting the message that certain products, interests, and activities are gender specific.
A study in 2009 (Miller, Lurye, Zosuls, & Ruble) examined the accessibility of gender stereotypes and found that both girls and boys tended to say that:
So does it matter if products and media consistently promote separate girl/boy play?
When children are exposed to high levels of gender salience, which is when people are clearly in one group as opposed to another, they tend to:
When children are consistently exposed to the idea that girls and boys are very different and should play separately, they will begin to function that way in the real world, preferring to only play with children of their same sex.
When commercials show toys being manipulated by only one gender, children are likely to identify that toy as “for” the gender of the child shown in the commercial. Media and marketing depictions do matter, and it’s time for companies to show some corporate responsibility.
Hilliard, L.J. & Liben, L.S. (2010). Differing levels of gender salience in preschool classrooms: Effects on children’s gender attitudes and intergroup bias. Child Development, 81, 1787-1798.
Miller, C.F., Lurye, L.E., Zosuls, K.M., & Ruble, D.N. (2009). Accessibility of gender stereotype domains: Developmental and gender differences in children. Sex Roles, 60, 870-881.
Pike, J.J. & Jennings, N.A. (2005). The effects of commercials on children’s perceptions of gender appropriate toy use. Sex Roles, 52, 83-91.