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Does having two children of the same sex make them more or less prone to gender stereotyping?

(7 Posts)
BedHog Sun 28-Aug-11 15:07:31

I've just got one DS (3yrs), DC2 is due soon and I don't know if it will be a boy or girl, so I've been thinking about sibling relationships quite a bit recently.

I've noticed when DS plays on his own, or with his female friends, he's more likely to enjoy a range of different toys and ways of playing. He likes traditionally 'boys' toys such as cars, trains etc., but equally plays with unisex and 'girls' toys too.

However, when he plays with his male friends, they are much more likely to end up playing much more physically, throwing stuff around, shouting loudly, and generally being boisterous and annoying. Similarly, when we're in a larger group containing at least two girls, the girls are more likely to go off together and do something more sedate, like colouring or playing with dolls.

It's quite puzzling for my group of friends as we have all tried as much as possible to provide the children with a wide range of activities, and to avoid the whole 'pink and blue' thing.

Does this happen with siblings too? If you have two children of the same sex are they more likely to encourage each other to act stereotypically than if you have a boy and a girl? Or does having one of each just serve to highlight the differences more, resulting in each child playing the allotted role of boy or girl without exploring other possibilities?

BlueberryPancake Sun 28-Aug-11 19:26:11

I have two boys aged now 5 and 4. We have a basket of toys that are more traditional toys for girls - a playhouse, dolls, barbies, etc. My boys play together with these differently than when girls come over. For example, they will play hospital and line up all the dolls and examin them and operate on them... But when we have girl friends around, my boys will tend to play in a more stereotypical girly way with the toys ie getting them their tea. If you make the effort to get them toys for boys and for girls, I think they are more likely to accept and play with both. If the toys are not available, then it's hard to play with them. My boys have had a play kitchen wtih plastic food and tea set, a playhouse, and dolls since they were little. But they prefer their garage/fireman sam/superhero stuff...

SquongebobSparepants Sun 28-Aug-11 19:38:53

I have two girls with a 19 month gap, the eldest is 5 and a complete girl most of the time. The youngest likes to wear dresses and skirts, BUT with robot and shark tshirts. She's a classic girlie tomboy, loves pirates, fire engines, cars etc but also plays dolls happily with her sister.
When they play together their games mix from sweet little tea parties to boisterous wrestling although not as bad as boys can get.

So I have no idea, given the choice eldest chose a hello kitty bedset, youngest a fire engine one, so does that mean less likely?

Solola Sun 28-Aug-11 20:08:03

This is a VERY interesting question and something I have never thought about before. I have 3 boys and I tend to think of them all as being very boisterous, physical and active as this is how they behave most of the time. However, just thinking about your question, they do really enjoy playing in different ways when they are alone.

My eldest love puzzle books, crosswords and any kind of word-game and will sit quietly doing these. My middle one likes jigsaws and art, painting etc and my baby loves books (that's not my train, etc).

Perhaps if they'd had a sister to encourage them to do these activities more often then they would be different?

I do sometimes find that when we are with other boys who have no siblings or have sisters rather than brothers then I have to be really careful that they don't be too rough, noisy etc as these boys seem more uncomfortable with this kind of play. Example, I have a friend whose 2 year old son burst out crying when my 2 year old was running around with a stick. My friend looked a bit disapproving at my son waving a stick around whereas for me that is totally normal behaviour. Perhaps I have just become immune to the noise and chaos (I love it).

Someone said to me yesterday that it is nice for boys to have a sister as it makes them more empathetic and I thought it through. Not sure - I have two brothers, one is very sensitive and the other is not!

MotherOfHobbit Sun 28-Aug-11 20:20:35

I read recently that having an older sibling that is of the same gender tends to reinforce gender stereotypes while those a sibling of a different gender tend to be less so. here

The truth is though, I think there are so many forces at work - the child's own natural preference, sibling/parent influence, environment etc - that ultimately there's too much variation between individuals for it to make a big difference.

SquongebobSparepants Sun 28-Aug-11 20:54:20

Also I have older sisters and was the biggest tomboy going, I would only wear skirts to school (because I was made to) otherwise I was in trousers, I never owned a doll, all DD2's cars are my old ones. So having older siblings the same gender as me made feck all difference to me.

Nagoo Sun 28-Aug-11 21:20:18

I do think that children develop their personalities as a reaction to their siblings to a fairly large extent, but I'm not sure how gender distinctions fit into this.

They like what they like. I think all we can do is provide an environment with a range of activities and toys so that they can pursue what interests them.

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