Distinguished Professor of Psychology Lynn Liben's research focusing on the establishment of gender stereotypes in young children was recently featured in articles published by The Upshot at the New York Times ("Boys and Girls, Constrained by Toys and Costumes", published October 30, 2015) and by Yahoo! Parenting ("The One Word Teachers Can Say to End Gender Stereotyping", published November 3, 2015).
An excerpt from the former article:
Lynn Liben of Penn State University and Lacey Hilliard of Tufts University studied preschool students. In some of the classrooms, teachers made no distinctions between boys and girls. In others, teachers differentiated between them, such as asking them to line up separately.
After two weeks, the children in the group where distinctions were made were much more likely to hold stereotypical beliefs about whether men and women should be in traditionally male or female occupations, and spent much less time playing with peers of the opposite sex. Even saying “boys and girls” instead of “children” had the effect.
“I find that incredibly compelling that labeling for boys or for girls will have an effect on reducing kids’ belief that everything is open to everybody,” Ms. Liben said. “I don’t think we need to wipe out differences, but you don’t want to constrain kids’ choices and abilities.”