Children have fewer gender games if they grow up in siblings

10,000 hours / Getty Images Girl (4-5) playing toy cars in kitchen

10,000 hours / Getty Images

Depending on the composition of the brothers, the games are less gendered among the cadets.

CHILDREN – As a brother, as a sister? From a young age, boys and girls play fundamentally different games. But this gap narrows when they have brothers and sisters of the opposite sex, according to a large-scale study by Ined and Inserm. Called Elfe, it is the first nationwide French longitudinal study dedicated to monitoring children from birth to adulthood. 18,000 children born in 2011 participate, followed up for a period of 20 years. Some results were presented this Thursday, October 6 at a press conference.

According to the researchers, children’s games are “You already have a gender » at the age of 2 years. 82% of girls play with dolls almost every day, compared to 19% of boys. On the contrary, 89% of boys have fun with toy cars, compared to 32% of girls, a difference of 60 points between the activities of one and the other. However, this gap can be narrowed depending on sibling composition, with less gender play between younger boys and girls.

Younger siblings who only have sisters are two to three times more likely to play with dolls every day than other younger siblings—those who don’t have only sisters—and older boys (33% vs. 17% and 12%). They are also slightly less likely to play small cars (87% vs. 90%). Similarly, young girls with only brothers are twice as likely to play toy cars every day as younger girls, those without only brothers, and as older girls (49% vs. % and 28%). They are also slightly less likely to play with dolls (80% vs. 82%).

“The place of brothers and sisters and their role in gender socialization is poorly studied, although they are likely to come into play early in gender production”emphasizes Kevin Diter, professor of sociology at the University of Lille who conducted the study.

Involve parents

Another gender difference pointed out by Kevin Diter: we often find the distinction between outdoor games for boys and indoor games for girls, regardless of the children’s social classes. At age two, girls are more likely than boys to draw pictures every day (73% vs. 58%). The boys abandon these indoor activities and play ball more (76% compared to 57% of the girls).

The hypothesis proposed by the researchers is that the games traditionally associated with the other gender are present in the house and that the older ones train the younger ones to play them. “The role of the brothers and sisters is fundamental in the activities and especially in their games. Being an only or older child, having only brothers, having only sisters or having brothers and sisters are situations that strongly affect children’s activities.they observe.

The gender gap is smaller for puzzles or drawings. A third of children play puzzles every day or frequently, whether they are boys or girls. According to the researchers, it is because parents are more involved in these activities considered useful because they develop writing, language, academic skills. They also invest more in the older ones than in the smaller ones, to whom they have less time to dedicate.

“These activities differ from games with dolls and cars because they seem to be practiced with or at the initiative of an adult. These are academically profitable activities »researchers say.

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