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Influences of androgens
Fetuses are exposed to prenatal androgens as early as 8 weeks into development. Male fetuses are exposed to much higher levels of androgens than female fetuses. It’s been found that toy preferences, as well as choice of play-mates, and play-styles vary with the child’s exposure to androgens. Regardless of the biological sex of the child, increased androgen exposure is associated with more masculine-type behaviours, while decreased androgen exposure is associated with more feminine-type behaviours.
Toy preference studies
Toys for girls tend to be round and pink, while toys for boy tend to be angular and blue. The subtle characteristics of toys may differentially appeal to the developing brains of female and male children. In a study of toy preferences of twelve- to 24-month-old infants, males spent more time looking at cars than females and females spent more time looking at dolls than males. No preference for color was found. Animal studies have lent further support for biologically determined gendered toy preferences. In a study of juvenile rhesus monkeys, when given the option between plush or wheeled toys, female monkeys gravitated toward plush toys, while male monkeys preferred toys with wheels. These findings suggest that gendered preferences for toys can occur without the socialization processes that we find in humans. Female rhesus monkeys also tend to engage in more nurturing play activities, while males tend to engage in more rough-and-tumble play.
Girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) have atypically high blood concentrations of testosterone. In studies of toy preference, these girls show increased interest in male-typical toys, like trucks and balls. Overall, their play habits and preferences more closely resembled male-typical play than female-typical play. Even with children exposed a normal range of prenatal androgens, increased testosterone was associated with increased preference for male-typical toys, and decreased prenatal testosterone was associated with greater interest in female-typical toys.
Overall, the degree of androgen exposure during prenatal and postnatal development may bias males and females toward specific cognitive processes, which are further reinforced through processes of socialization. The male interest in balls and wheeled toys may relate to the androgenised brains preference for objects that move through space. The higher levels of androgens in the developing male brain could elicit greater attraction to cars and balls, while lower levels of androgens elicit a preference for dolls and nurturing activities in the female brain.
There is some evidence that animals can display similar sex based toy selection as humans.
- ↑ Jadva, V., et al. (2010). Infants' preferences for toys, colors and shapes. Arch. Sex. Behav. 39 (6): 1261–73.
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- ↑ Hassett, Janice M., Siebert, Erin R., Wallen, Kim. (2008). Differences in Rhesus Monkey Toy Preferences Parallel those of Children. Hormones and Behavior 54 (3): 359–64.
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