Gender Segregation Among Childhood Friends (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Effects of Gender Segregation

Regardless of why gender segregation occurs, one of its consequences is that boys and girls grow up in different gender cultures—different spheres of social influence that are based on the differences between male and female groups and affiliations (Leaper, 1994; Leman, Ahmed, & Ozarow, 2005; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1987). Rough-and-tumble play, chase, keep-away games, superhero warrior games, and competitive sports are more common activities among boys. Physical aggression, independence, and dominance are common themes in boys' play. Girls' play, however, tends to emphasize social closeness and sensitivity. Doll play and playing house, for example, involve role- playing, turn taking, nurturance, and affection. Another difference is that boys tend to play in larger groups; girls develop closer ties in smaller groups. As a consequence, girls may learn to share thoughts and feelings and practice being good listeners in intimate frienddships, while boys see intimate sharing as a sign of weakness that would make them more vulnerable within their dominance hierarchies (Leaper, 1994). These different gender cultures can cause conflicts when girls and boys begin to associate more together as they date and interact in adolescence and adulthood. Because they don't share the same gender culture, girls and boys may have difficulty understanding each others' perspectives.

What can adults do to reduce any negative effects of childhood gender segregation? Leaper (1994) provided several practical suggestions. For example, parents can model egalitarian roles at home, arrange more situations in which children can play and cooperate across genders, and reinforce and support children when they do cross stereotypical gender lines in their play. Teachers can arrange cooperative activities among boys and girls, and they can avoid grouping children by gender when they arrange seating and form lines. Teachers also should avoid using gender as a way to address students; for example, they shouldn't shout "Boys, sit down and be quiet!" unless all of the boys were indeed being loud. Of course, it would not be prudent or practical to try to eliminate all gender differences. Nevertheless, children would benefit by being more flexible in their expectations and skills when interacting with the opposite sex.

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