Contextual differences in parent-child play: Implications for children's gender role development

Eric W. Lindsey, Jacquelyn Mize

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations


Parent-child play behavior of 33 preschool children (18 boys, 29 European-American, middle-and upper-middle-class families) was videotaped in separate pretend and physical play sessions. Children's play behavior with a same-sex peer also was observed. Analyses focus on contextual differences in parent-child play behavior, as well as associations between parent-child play and child-peer play. During the pretense play session parent-daughter dyads, particularly mother-daughter dyads, engaged in more pretense play than did parent-son dyads. During the physical play session father-son dyads engaged in more physical play than did father-daughter dyads. These data suggest that context may play an important role in gender differentiated patterns of parent-child play behavior. As for children's peer play behavior, consistent with previous evidence, girls were more likely than boys to engage peers in pretend play and boys were more likely than girls to play physically with peers. Children whose parents engaged in more pretense play engaged in more pretense play with a peer, whereas children's whose parents engaged in more physical play engaged in more physical play with a peer. These findings suggest that parents may contribute to children's gender-typed play behaviors with peers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-176
Number of pages22
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 2001


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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