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Even 9-Month-Olds Choose 'Gender-Specific' Toys
Date:4/15/2010

Study found boys went for cars and trucks, while girls chose doll, teddy bear

THURSDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Parents may want their girls to grow up to be astronauts and their boys to one day do their fair share of child care and housework duties, but a new study suggests certain stereotypical gender preferences take root even before most kids can crawl.

When presented with seven different toys, boys as young as 9 months old went for the car, digger and soccer ball, while ignoring the teddy bears, doll and cooking set.

And the girls? You guessed it. At the same age, they were most interested in the doll, teddy bear and miniature pot, spoon and plastic vegetables.

"The boys always preferred the toys that go or move, and the girls preferred toys that promote nurturing and facial features," said study author Sara Amalie O'Toole Thommessen, an undergraduate at City University in London.

So does this mean that boys and girls have an innate preference for certain types of objects? Or does socialization -- that is, the influence of parents and the larger culture -- impact children's choice of toys very early in life?

It's too soon to rule either out, said Walter Gilliam, director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University.

"One of the things we've learned about babies over the many years we've been studying them is that they are amazing sponges and learn an awful lot in those nine months," Gilliam said.

The study was to be presented Friday at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon.

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was lots of interest in the "nature" versus "nurture" debate, and developmental researchers did plenty of research on gender differences in play. However, most studies were inconclusive and interest faded, Thommessen said.

At the same time, roles within the home were b
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