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Gender Awareness

When do boys and girls learn that they are different?

Posted: 18 April 2010
by Suzanne Milne

YOUR CHILD WILL begin to grasp the concept of gender as early as nine months, when boys start selecting male super-hero dolls and girls prefer baby dolls and household objects. This is generally because boys have higher levels of  testosterone, leading them to prefer louder, less subtle toys. 

Children generally know whether they are a boy or a girl around the age of two, but don’t grasp the fact that their gender is permanent at this age. 
The two-year mark also sees both sexes demonstrating curiosity about parts of the body that have been largely hidden by nappies. Young boys’ curiosity tends to be more obvious – it does stick out, after all. Little boys will often tug at their nether regions in much the same way they will tug their ears or toes, as it offers a feeling 
of comfort and reassurance much like sucking their thumb.

Boys’ testosterone levels typically soar at around four years old. This is when the Action Man antics and macho behaviour kicks in. A boy who was previously not fussed if he was dished up pasta on a pink plate will suddenly find the concept of a ‘girl’s’ plate revolting.

Full gender consistency –  understanding the permanence of gender despite changes in outfits –  is reached around age six.

Research has shown that parents give boys much stronger clues about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour, than they do with girls. However, when children start school  this parental influence is tempered  as children begin to conform to peer pressure and stereotypes. 

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gender, school, boys, girls, stereotypes

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