Gender, babies, and Tailored Science

Counterculture Conservative brings us this report from Yahoo, which presents the findings of a recent study on babies and gender preferences.

Parents may want their girls to grow up to be astronauts and their boys to one day do their fair share of child care and housework duties, but a new study suggests certain stereotypical gender preferences take root even before most kids can crawl.

When presented with seven different toys, boys as young as 9 months old went for the car, digger and soccer ball, while ignoring the teddy bears, doll and cooking set.

And the girls? You guessed it. At the same age, they were most interested in the doll, teddy bear and miniature pot, spoon and plastic vegetables.

“The boys always preferred the toys that go or move, and the girls preferred toys that promote nurturing and facial features,” said study author Sara Amalie O’Toole Thommessen, an undergraduate at City University in London.

So does this mean that boys and girls have an innate preference for certain types of objects? Or does socialization — that is, the influence of parents and the larger culture — impact children’s choice of toys very early in life?

It’s too soon to rule either out, said Walter Gilliam, director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy at Yale University.

“One of the things we’ve learned about babies over the many years we’ve been studying them is that they are amazing sponges and learn an awful lot in those nine months,” Gilliam said.


Gender-specific preferences became even more pronounced as the children got older. By about age 27 months to 36 months, girls spent about 50 percent of their time playing with the doll, and were no longer much interested in the teddy bear, which had interested them when they were younger, or any of the other objects. The boys spent 87 percent of their time with the car and digger, ignoring even the ball.

The finding raises the possibility of a biological basis for toy choices. A study from 2001 found even 1-day-old boys spent longer looking at moving, mechanical options than 1-day-old girls, who spent more time looking at faces.

Yet the impact of socialization should never be underestimated, Gilliam said. Studies have shown parents and others interact differently with female and male babies from almost the instant they’re born, Gilliam said.

So, the study suggests that certain gender preferences are innate, yet both the researcher and the reporter are certain that despite that, gender is still a social construct. And that this is a good thing.

“Even if your boy prefers playing with a truck, make sure you talk to him and teach him about nurturing,” Gilliam said. “Even if a girl is playing with a doll, every once in a while throw her a ball or take her on a run. Expose them to all the different possibilities, and then let them choose.”

So the real message here is apparently this: gender may in fact be innate, but the researchers who demonstrated that are working to debunk their own findings, and anyway you should do what you can to negate that potential innateness.

Counterculture Conservative has his own observations:

So even as gender is found at increasingly earlier ages, Dr. Gilliam believes this is merely proof of “socialization” at earlier ages.  She just keeps pushing the window further and further back.  Thus to her, the results of this study prove nothing whatsoever …

Notice also the reporter’s agenda here.  She’s less interested in informing you on the results of this study than she is in trying to debunk it.  That’s why an article that presumably was supposed to be about the latest results on gender turns into a radical Fem apologia with Dr. Gilliam as its star.  Dr. Gilliam– not this study– is who this reporter really wants you to hear from.  So the reporter begins with her own conclusion that gender differences “take root” before they learn to crawl, rather than in the womb.

An interesting point. The earlier we find evidence for gender roles, the earlier liberals argue that infants are socialized into gender roles. How early do we need evidence for it before it is acknowledged that some gender preferences are, in fact, biologically determined? Or do we socialized infants somehow while they are in the womb, when most of us don’t know the baby’s sex?

A final observation, and perhaps the most important one.  Ideologically speaking, the Left is a herd of cats, united only by their hatred of the Mainstream and all things “the Right”.  Their disparate ideologies are often at odds with each other, and that includes the Gay Agenda and radical Feminism.  While radical Feminism rests on the belief that all gender differences are learned “social constructs”, the Gay Agenda wants you to believe that homosexuality is the exact opposite– that it is genetic and therefore “innate.”  Gender is nurtured, but gay is natured.  Both turn reality on its head.  And both are mutually exclusive positions.  This simple fact is obvious on its face, yet it eludes the pro-science, intellectual powerhouses of the Left (heavy sarcasm there).  They will not be deterred from their never ending quest for the “gay gene”, even as they attempt to sweep male/female genetic, hormonal and physical differences under the rug.

I will disagree a bit with Counterculture Conservative here. There isn’t a “gay gene” or anything like it, but there is a substantial body of evidence that homosexuality is related to differences in brain structures and hormone levels, which appear to be associated with hormone spikes in the mother while pregnant. Homosexuality does appear to have a biological component.

I will agree with the main thrust of his point, though: that the left seems to want to argue that homosexuality is innate, but gender is constructed. You can’t have one but not the other. I am inclined to believe that both are innate.

I will clarify, however, that I believe that expressions of gender are largely socially constructed,and this can be shown through the difference in gender roles and expectations across cultures. But some preferences and behaviors do seem to be biologically set, and this makes sense given the relationship between emotional states, thought processes, and brain structure and hormone levels.


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  1. Gender, abies, and Tailored Science « The Republican Heretic · World News at

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