Playing out Gender Roles

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When playing with their toddlers, fathers are more assertive while mothers are more compliant, a new study has found. These differences could help ingrain gender stereotypes in children early on. Psychologists observed 80 sets of parents interacting with their young children in 15-minute play sessions with toys in the lab. When parents played with books and toys with their kids, fathers modelled higher levels of instrumental and assertive behaviour, whereas mothers modelled higher levels of facilitative or cooperative behaviour. Mothers were more likely to comply than fathers, whereas fathers were more likely to reject or ignore children than mothers. Ultimately, these subtle gender differences between how mothers and fathers act could be imparting important lessons to children about what it means to be male or female. The kids might pick up that dads are more assertive, and moms more passive, and incorporate this into their own behaviour over time. Such differences may teach children subtle lessons about gender roles.