Judging toy breakers: Gender stereotypes have devious effects on children

Rachel Karniol, Amir Aida

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Second-grade children listened to short stones about male or female children who accidentally broke neutral and sex-appropriate or opposite-sex toys. Children then rated the severity of punishment due to each toy breaker and provided justifications for their ratings. The justifications were coded for citing intentionality (or lack thereof) and toy ownership (or lack thereof). No differences were found between boys and girls in the punishment severity ratings of targets of either gender who broke neutral toys. In the punishment severity ratings of toy breakers of sex-appropriate and opposite-sex toys, gender stereotype effects were found only for girls; they suggested more severe punishment for toy breakers of opposite-sex: toys, irrespective of their gender. The citation of toy ownership was found to be a significant variable in boys' nonuse of gender stereotypes in their punishment severity ratings; with the impact of toy ownership removed, gender differences in punishment severity ratings were eliminated. Although the citation of intentions did not influence the punishment severity ratings of either boys or girls, boys referred to intentions primarily in same-sex targets. The data illustrate both the direct and the devious impact of gender stereotypes on children's social cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Feb 1997


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