Gender stereotyping: Is it genetics or nature vs nurture?

How much influence does gender stereotyping have on the way we raise our kids? Shelly Koekemoer, a teacher at Maragon Ruimsig explains why we should let our kids explore freely without prejudice.


Culturally speaking, gender stereotyping starts straight after conception. A nursery will be painted pink or blue if the sex of the child is known. If baby’s gender is kept as a surprise, the nursery’s colour scheme will be gender neutral.

When observing a playground full of children, it is typical of the boys to be running around and chasing each other noisily in large groups while the girls prefer to sit one on one, chatting and engage in make-believe games. When given the choice of toys, girls tend to gravitate towards dolls and soft toys, whereas boys choose cars and block to build. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but it begs the question – are boys and girls brains wired differently?

In the past, children may have observed their mothers as being more nurturing and in charge of domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, while the father was seen as the breadwinner. In some modern-day societies, there has been a change in these roles, with stay-at-home dads being more of a trend and moms providing the lion’s share of the household income.

ALSO SEE: Does gender matter when raising your child?

How much influence does this have on a child’s gender identification?

Simply walking into a department store, it is easy to spot the girl’s and boy’s section by colour. Even in toy shops, products are packaged clearly to attract either boys or girls. Is this influencing the way in which children play?

If clothes and toys were presented differently, would this have an effect?

Scientist suggest the hormones in utero and biological origin have a larger impact on how children play. For example, males are born with more muscle mass than females making them more interested in physical activities. A baby girl’s language is more advanced than her male counterpart’s, making them more inclined to play fantasy games with dolls and dress-up clothes.

Typically, girls can’t wait to take part in arts and crafts exploring their more superior fine motor skills. However, the boys prefer outdoor activities, climbing on the jungle gyms, riding bikes and running around on the playground.

ALSO SEE: How to avoid gender stereotyping your child

As parents and educators, we should offer children a wide range of activities and opportunities to develop as individuals and discover their own skills. Boys can be given soft toys and encouraged to be nurturing within families, expressing a sensitive side. Girls on the other hand can be encouraged to challenge themselves physically and be more adventurous. Children should not be shamed or discouraged for their toys or games, but rather be able to explore freely without prejudice.

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