Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gender stereotyping may start as young as 3 months -- study of babies' cries shows

Public Release: 21-Apr-2016
Gender stereotyping may start as young as 3 months -- study of babies' cries shows
University of Sussex

Gender stereotyping may start as young as three months, according to a study of babies' cries from the University of Sussex.

Adults attribute degrees of femininity and masculinity to babies based on the pitch of their cries, as shown by a new study by researchers from the University of Sussex, the University of Lyon/Saint-Etienne and Hunter College City University of New York. The research is published in the journal BMC Psychology.

The study found:

Adults often wrongly assume babies with higher-pitched cries are female and lower pitched cries are male

When told the gender of the baby, adults make assumptions about the degree of masculinity or femininity of the baby, based on the pitch of the cry

Adults generally assume that babies with higher-pitched cries are in more intense discomfort

Men who are told that a baby is a boy tend to perceive greater discomfort in the cry of the baby. This is likely to be due to an ingrained stereotype that boy babies should have low-pitched cries. (There was no equivalent finding for women, or for men's perception of baby girls.)

Despite no actual difference in pitch between the voices of girls and boys before puberty, the study found that adults make gender assumptions about babies based on their cries.


Adults who are told, or already know, that a baby with a high-pitched cry is a boy said they thought he was less masculine than average. And baby girls with low-pitched voices are perceived as less feminine. There is already widespread evidence that gender stereotypes influence parental behaviour but this is the first time we have seen it occur in relation to babies' cries.


"The finding that men assume that boy babies are in more discomfort than girl babies with the same pitched cry may indicate that this sort of gender stereotyping is more ingrained in men. It may even have direct implications for babies' immediate welfare: if a baby girl is in intense discomfort and her cry is high-pitched, her needs might be more easily overlooked when compared with a boy crying at the same pitch.


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