Organizing and Labeling Preschool Classrooms by Gender: Effects on Children’s Gender Attitudes and In-Group Bias

Open Access
Hilliard, Lacey Jennifer
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
July 24, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Lynn Susan Liben, Thesis Advisor
  • preschool
  • gender
Past work suggests that children categorize their environment according to social groups and predicts that the functional use of gender (i.e., using gender to organize and using gendered language) increases children’s gender stereotypes. In the present study, fifty-seven preschool children were assessed through gender attitude, intergroup bias, and personal preference measures at the beginning and end of a two-week manipulation. Teachers in the experimental (label) condition categorized their classroom by gender whereas teachers in the control conditioned maintained a typical classroom environment. Children in the label condition (but not the control condition) had increased sex-typed responses, decreased preference for other-sex peers, and decreased observed play with other-sex peers after the manipulation. Children’s personal activity and occupational preferences were not affected by the gendered environment.