The Effect of Play with Highly Feminized Toys on Preschool Girls' Attitudes about Gender Nontraditional Careers

Open Access
Coyle, Emily Fay
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
January 31, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Lynn Susan Liben, Thesis Advisor
  • gender development
  • career interests
  • STEM
One road to the development of girls’ interests in future occupations is through play. The current study tested whether 46 girls (48-69 months old, mean = 57) participating in an occupational computer game would increase in their interest in traditionally masculine jobs depending on the degree to which the game’s primary character was culturally feminized. Specifically, the game presented masculine, feminine, and novel occupations depicted either by Barbie or by a less feminized Playmobil character. Dependent measures assessed girls’ interest in masculine and feminine activities, interest in masculine and feminine jobs, and interest in game-depicted jobs. The study also examined whether the impact of the game would vary in relation to individual differences in the degree to which gender is personally salient (Liben & Bigler’s gender salience filter, GSF; 2002). Girls were given three GSF measures: (a) gender typicality, (b) own-sex affiliation, and (c) own-sex memory, which combined to create a GSF score. Findings showed that the Playmobil game had little impact on girls’ interests, irrespective of individual differences in GSF. In contrast, the Barbie game had significant effects, in conjunction with GSF differences. For girls with a stronger GSF, playing the Barbie game led to an increased interest in feminine activities. Additionally, girls with a stronger GSF also showed less interest in the game-depicted masculine jobs if they had played the Barbie version. These results have implications for interventions which seek to build on some girls’ feminized interests as a way to foster interests in nontraditional domains. These results also underscore the value of assessing GSF level, since outcomes may vary accordingly.