chapter  11
34 Pages

The Peer Group as an Agent of Gender Development

Think back to your own childhood. Who were your friends, and what did you do with them? Did it matter whether you were at home in your own neighborhood versus whether you were at school? If you were like most children, the majority of the friends you recall from childhood are likely to be children who were the same sex as you, at least if they were available. This phenomenon is richly recounted by novelist Margaret Atwood in her book Cat’s Eye, a story about the tormented relationships of a group of girls. In the story Atwood describes the young protagonist’s relationship with her own brother at school:

In this chapter we will consider the impact of peer relationships on children’s gender development. It is one of the most basic aspects of social relationships in childhood that children play in same-sex peer groups, a phenomenon known as gender segregation. As we have noted earlier in this book, playing primarily in same-sex groups and having friends who are predominantly the same sex as oneself is one of the most robust differences between boys and girls across most if not all cultures in the world (Geary & Bjorklund, 2000).