Gender Stereotypes Start Early
And when we say “early,” we mean early.
A recent study published in BMC Psychology suggests that gender stereotypes are pushed onto our children as soon as they utter their first cries (which you may know as “yammering” or “fussing”) into the world.
With the unwitting help of 24 three-month-old infants, researchers recorded baby cries and played them back to various groups of volunteers -- including their parents.
Although it’s a scientific fact that the cries of boys and girls don’t vocally differ until puberty, people overwhelmingly assumed that high-pitched cries belonged to girls and lower-pitched cries to boys. This bias could be seen when babies naturally cried and when researchers artificially modified their cries.
In a second experiment, adults were told the gender of the child whose cry they were about to hear. Adults who were told that a baby with a high-pitched cry is a boy said they thought he was less masculine than average. And baby girls with low-pitched voices were perceived as less feminine.
Just how a three-month-old might display either strong masculine or strong feminine behavior is, in unscientific terms, quite a head-scratcher.
The study team next hopes to investigate if such stereotypical reactions affect the way babies are treated, and whether parents inadvertently choose different clothes, toys and activities based on these perceptions of sexual identity.