University Researchers Find Children Perceive More Gender Segregation Than Is Actually the Case

A new study by researchers at Michigan State University and New York University finds that young children have a perception that gender segregation is more prevalent in their relationships than is actually the case. The study involved 426 children in second through fourth grade. The researchers found that the children had no problem playing with peers who were the other gender but when asked about relationships they expressed the opinion that boys played only with boys and girls played only with girls.

The study found that children were nine times as likely to be friends if they were of the same gender. But when asked about their classmates, children were 50 times more likely to believe their classmates were friends if they were the same gender.

jennifer-watling-neal_lgJennifer Watling Neal, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, stated, “While gender does matter a great deal in the formation of children’s friendships, children think it is nearly the only relevant factor.”

Dr. Neal is a graduate of the University of Arizona. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in community psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The article “I Know Who My Friends Are, but Do You? Predictors of Self-Reported and Peer-Inferred Relationships,” was published on the website of the journal Child Development. It may be accessed here.

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