Preferences for Pink and Blue: The Development of Color Preferences as a Distinct Gender-Typed Behavior in Toddlers

Arch Sex Behav. 2015 Jul;44(5):1243-54. doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0489-1. Epub 2015 Feb 14.


Many gender differences are thought to result from interactions between inborn factors and sociocognitive processes that occur after birth. There is controversy, however, over the causes of gender-typed preferences for the colors pink and blue, with some viewing these preferences as arising solely from sociocognitive processes of gender development. We evaluated preferences for gender-typed colors, and compared them to gender-typed toy and activity preferences in 126 toddlers on two occasions separated by 6-8 months (at Time 1, M = 29 months; range 20-40). Color preferences were assessed using color cards and neutral toys in gender-typed colors. Gender-typed toy and activity preferences were assessed using a parent-report questionnaire, the Preschool Activities Inventory. Color preferences were also assessed for the toddlers' parents using color cards. A gender difference in color preferences was present between 2 and 3 years of age and strengthened near the third birthday, at which time it was large (d > 1). In contrast to their parents, toddlers' gender-typed color preferences were stronger and unstable. Gender-typed color preferences also appeared to establish later and were less stable than gender-typed toy and activity preferences. Gender-typed color preferences were largely uncorrelated with gender-typed toy and activity preferences. These results suggest that the factors influencing gender-typed color preferences and gender-typed toy and activity preferences differ in some respects. Our findings suggest that sociocognitive influences and play with gender-typed toys that happen to be made in gender-typed colors contribute to toddlers' gender-typed color preferences.

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Color Perception*
  • Color*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Socialization