Gender segregation in childhood: a test of the interaction style theory

J Genet Psychol. 2001 Sep;162(3):298-313. doi: 10.1080/00221320109597485.


The authors investigated the play/interaction-style theory of gender segregation with a sample of 39 children aged 2 to 5 years (primarily Caucasian). According to this theory, children prefer playmates with styles of play or interaction that are similar to their own. Because such styles are sex differentiated, same-sex playmate preference (i.e., gender segregation) results. The authors observed children during free play to determine preferred playmates and gender segregation level, and they used teacher ratings to derive play/interaction-style scores. The authors used a multiple regression approach to path analysis to analyze effects of sex of participant, participants' play/interaction-style scores, playmates' play/interaction-style scores, and degree of gender segregation to determine their effects on one another. The authors observed significant levels of gender segregation, with highly aggressive or active children displaying less segregation than their peers did. However, gender segregation was not associated with a preference for playmates with similar play or interaction styles.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings
  • Prejudice*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Videotape Recording