‘It’s Not That We Hate You’: Understanding Children’s Gender Attitudes and Expectancies About Peer Relationships

Abstract

Widespread gender segregation, evident throughout elementary school, seems to imply that girls and boys have negative feelings and thoughts about one another, and classic theories of inter-group processes support this idea. However, research has generally overlooked children’s feelings and perceptions about gender-related interpersonal interactions. This paper investigates the nature of children’s attitudes about same- and other-gender peers, and explores how those attitudes relate to the expectancies and beliefs children hold about same- and other-gender peer interactions. Children (N = 98 fifth graders) completed questionnaires assessing their global liking of own- and other-gender peers (Yee & Brown, 1994), positive and negative attitudes about own- and other-gender peers, and outcome expectancies related to interacting with own- and other-gender peers. Results indicated that rather than being characterized by out-group negativity, children’s inter-group gender attitudes are best characterized by an in-group positivity bias. Children’s positive and negative affective attitudes were also significantly associated with outcome expectancies. In contrast, global liking of own- and other- gender peers was less predictive of outcome expectancies. Thus, the greater specificity of the affective attitude measures appeared to be a more predictive and potentially fruitful gauge of children’s feelings about own- and other-gender peers. Results are discussed in terms of the need for finer grained and more extensive studies of children’s gender-related feelings and cognitions about own- and other-gender peers.

Publication
In British Journal of Developmental Psychology