Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How early does the gender divide begin?

So goes the age old question….Can men and women be friends? I’ve noticed certainly that preschool boys and girls can be friends. Both of my children had close friends of both genders at the ages of 3 and 4. They can easily find common ground in play. For example, my daughter and her good friend, a boy, often play princess and fire-breathing dragon or Star Wars with Princess Lea and a Storm Trooper. Their imaginary play is varied and everyone can find a role they enjoy. My son had similar friends in preschool, asked for play dates with girls, and did not discriminate according to gender. He is in Kindergarten now and I am beginning to see changes with the children in his class. I have lunch with them once a week. At the beginning of the year, there was no rhyme or reason to who sat with whom. It changed week to week, with boys and girls mixed together. As the year progresses, I notice more division. A few girls here, a group of boys there, another group of girls down the table. When I observe the older grades, all the boys are at one end and all of the girls are at the other end.

So what happens when they hit elementary school? Are their interests in play that different? If so, because of nature or the way they are marketed to? Do parents (maybe unknowingly) discourage play with children of a different gender, or just overly encourage play with children of the same gender? If boys and girls have a hard time being good friends before hormones come into play, what chance do they have afterwards?


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