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In the Matter of Toys, Boys Will Be Boys

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Now that many people have been freed from the confines of stereotypical sex roles, parents find it perfectly acceptable--even praiseworthy--to give their offspring toys once thought suitable only for children of the opposite sex. But according to a newly completed study by a Florida3State University researcher, the recipients of these nonsexist toys may not yet have caught up with the trend.

Charles H. Wolfgang, a professor of early-childhood education, tested a group of preschool pupils whose mothers worked outside of the home and who had spent extended periods of their childhood in day-care centers. Staff members at the daycare center where he carried out the study worked to eliminate sex-role stereotypes as well. "One of the center's skits included a Snow White who had a professional career and the dwarfs all had to do household chores," Mr. Wolfgang said.

Despite these efforts, however, the children still preferred the toys traditionally considered appropriate for their sex. In fact, Mr. Wolfgang found, their preferences were nearly identical to those reported in a 1934 study of the same question conducted by T.F. Vance. Girls still prefer domestic toys and materials like clay, paints, and crayons, and boys continue to favor construction materials, carpentry tools, and building blocks, Mr. Wolfgang found.

The researcher speculates that social influences outside the home and school continue to exert a powerful influence on children. Catalogues and television commercials show girls playing with dolls and boys working with tools.

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