Interactions between parents and children, especially during playtime affect their perception of gender-specific behaviours, a new study has indicated.
80 families took part in the experiment. Parents and their children were videotaped during a 15-minute parent-child play session and a 10-minute parent-child snack (the caregiving session).
Eric Lindsey from Penn State Berks in the US, and his colleagues found that that the quality of verbal interactions between parents and their toddlers was dependent on the context. But the differences between boys' and girls' verbal communication behaviours were minimal.
More importantly, mothers' and fathers' behaviours differed more in the play context than in the snack context. During play, fathers were more assertive whereas mothers displayed more facilitative and cooperative. But behaviours in the care giving situation their behaviours were much more similar.
The authors suggest that children may pick up on these different behaviors and associate them with gender roles in the family i.e. males are more assertive whereas females are more compliant and flexible.
They conclude, "It would appear that children in the same family have different experiences in their play interactions with their mothers and fathers. Such differences may teach children indirect lessons about gender roles and reinforced gender typed patterns of behavior that they then carry into contexts outside of the family."
Their findings are published online in Springer's journal Sex Roles.