Infants prefer toys typed to their gender

Boys’ and girls’ toy preferences develop differently between the ages of one and eight, according to research published in the journal Infant and Child Development. The statistical analysis combines the results of 16 observational studies of free selection of toys among children aged between one and eight conducted from 1980 to 2016.

The study, by academics from City, University of London in collaboration with academics from University College London and Glasgow Caledonian University, found that as boys got older the time spent playing with male-typed toys increased, whereas the equivalent pattern was not found in girls.

The academics believe this effect might be due to developmental and social factors arising at different ages. The increase in boys’ play with male-typed toys reveals that stereotypical social effects may persist longer for boys or that they have a stronger biological predisposition for certain play styles.
Dr Brenda Todd, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at City, said: “What we have found is that as boys get older we see an increased play with toys typed to their gender. We also saw that girls have started to play increasingly less with female-typed toys over more recent decades, which may possibly indicate moves towards greater gender equality in Western societies where most of the study has been conducted.”

Sex difference in children’s object preferences is likely to originate from biological differences which are subsequently influenced by cognitive development and supposedly social factors. The impact of society on such toy choice is likely to change as boys’ and girls’ brains develop and as they become aware of their own gender and the associated societal norms.

Dr Brenda Todd