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Sample Undergraduate Sociology Essay

Published by at December 12th, 2022 , Revised On January 26, 2023

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How do toys ‘gender’ childhoods?

This Essay defines how toys define gender in small children and how it shapes their future. It is intended to explore the rationale of children about gender-based toys and to assess if there is a link between the views of parents and children’s toy preferences. Gender-based toys can be described as commonly deemed appropriate for one sex over another, such as men’s toys are cars and women’s dolls. (Kollmayer et al., 2018).

Gender-based toys are used in this study to identify toys that are generally perceived to be better matched to the gender they have chosen. The term gender-atypical is used to identify toys that are usually acceptable for a child of the opposite sex. Today, this issue is highly important because the manufacturing and selling of toys today tend to be more gender-specific than ever. Most toy shops have hallways or even floors devoted to a single-gender. As a result, today’s children are more vulnerable than their peers in the past to gender-based toys.

Theoretical viewpoints on how children learn gender roles and gender attitudes are distinct. The social cognitive theory of gender development notes that by studying their environments and the individuals around them, children learn gender roles and gender-specific actions.

Kids watch and mimic people’s actions around them. Sexual behaviour is compounded by encouraging and punishing actions viewed by some as desirable or unacceptable and observed by the infant. (Todd, Barry, and Thommessen, 2017) According to this view, the definition of gender and the acquisition of gender actions is thus a socially created process.

Gender behaviour is the product of biological distinctions between the genders, according to this opinion. Despite this research showing that children are biologically sensitive in their toy tastes to gender roles, this Essay is reinforced by the hypothesis that children’s social relationships, especially with their parents, impact their toy expectations and choices.

This segment was written by Megan Maas, assistant professor of human growth and genealogy at Michigan State University, for The Discussion, an independent partnership of editor-researchers that provides the public with in-depth news coverage and commentary. Check out a complete list of posts written for The Debate by the MSU faculty.

Gender-neutral parents who wish to nurture their children have a new present this year: gender-neutral dolls. Mattel’s new gender-neutral set of humanoid dolls, released in September, does not expressly identify itself as being a girl or a baby. The dolls have a variety of wardrobe styles and can be dressed in varying hair lengths and forms of clothes. But can a doll change how we think about gender or the growing list of other gender-neutral toys?

“Children do not want their toys to be dictated by gender norms” children do not want gender norms to govern their toys. The decision makes business sense, considering the findings of a new study that revealed that 24 percent of American teens had a non-traditional sexual orientation or gender identity as bisexual or non-binary.

I would argue that this makes scientific sense as a clinical psychologist who deals with identity and sexual socialisation. Sex is an identity that is not dependent on the biological gender of an individual. The good news, I guess, is that some dolls better represent the way kids see themselves, says Megan Mass.

At Indiana University – Purdue University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Judith Elaine Blakemore is a Professor of Psychology and Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences for Faculty Development. The creation of gender norms is her primary research interest. We also talked with Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, a Willimantic, Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut State University professor, about the impact of such toys on the players. Professor Blakemore said we classified and grouped more than 100 toys to show how many boys, girls or none were associated with each toy.

The toys most associated with boys, in general, had to do with fighting or violence (wrestlers, warriors, guns, etc.), and the toys most associated with girls had to do with beauty (Barbie dolls and clothing, figure skater skirts, makeup, jewellery, etc.) so on and so forth.
Based on these grades, we then grouped the toys into six categories: (1) very feminine, (2) mildly feminine, (3) neutral, (5) moderately masculine, and (6) very masculine. Toys were then judged as manipulative, thrilling, instructional, offensive, musical, etc., by their characteristics.

We discovered that girls’ toys were synonymous with physical attraction, caring and home skills, while boys’ toys were considered aggressive, competitive, thrilling and somewhat risky. The toys that were most likely to be instructional and to improve children’s physical, emotional, creative and other abilities were typically ranked as neutral or moderately male. We concluded that toys with a heavy gender type appear less likely than neutral or mildly gendered toys to promote optimum growth.

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Gender-related toy preference

It has been suggested that the vast majority of studies testing the tastes of children’s toys were not an accurate representation of what children in real life would choose. Previous studies were too restricting and gave only a very narrow choice between small options and seldom offered a gender-neutral choice, usually male or female toys.

Liu (2020) measured toy interests of primary school children in his study using children’s letters to Santa Claus, allowing an unlimited, environmentally friendly means of measuring children’s preferences in practical, naturalistic ways. Liu (2020) noticed that not conventional Barbie dolls but toys that could be called gender-neutral were many of the toys the children preferred.

Though boys were similarly fond of gender-specific and gender-neutral toys, girls were particularly likely to use gender-neutral toys. However, Liu (2020) analysis also found that boys and girls favour gender-specific toys over gender-typical ones, an assumption reinforced by the sub-study findings.

More recently, it has been shown that even the youngest ones, babies between 3 and 8 months of age, appear to enjoy typical toys. The time children spent focused on a vehicle or doll, this was calculated using eye-tracking technologies. It turned out that although boys were spending more time on the tractor, girls favoured the doll.

Study on young monkeys has underlined the possibility of scientifically substantiating gender preferences in infants since these preferences are detected at an age when children are commonly known to have established gender identity and conduct. (Boe, and Woods, 2018).

The reason behind Toy Preference and Suitability

Previous research has highlighted many significant factors that impact a child’s thinking on whom toys are acceptable. Many experiments have shown that the thinking of children who would get to play with a certain toy is mostly self-centred. It turns out that they also justify that other children of their own sex would like the toy when a child liked a certain toy, and conversely that children of the opposite sex would not like them. These findings suggest that young kids sometimes worry about what other kids want with self-centeredness and believe that what they want does not please those of their own gender and others of the opposite gender. (Al Kurdi, 2017)

When a toy is marked as single-gender, it greatly influences how kids think about who wants the toy. They introduced enticing yet unknown toys to children and asked them to rank the toy that appealed to them and other kids. The logic of the children was self-centred.

They realised whatever they would like to have other children of their kind. But they found a totally different response when they approached the kids with another set of toys with gender designations. Children use gender marks to think about their own toys, while some prefer that children would be less favourable to the toy, even with a rather desirable toy, if it was named for the opposite sex, and other children of their own sex inspired this. This research thus clearly illustrates that gender etiquette can influence the thinking and desires of children when deciding which toys they want and when contemplating what other kids want. (Todd et al, 2018).

Parental Perceptions of Gendered Toys and Their Suitability

The research conducted by (Zimmermann, 2017; McReynolds, 2017) provides an observational analysis that defined, how parents reward and discipline the actions of their children. It turned out that there are actions used to reward or punish parents are distinct for boys and girls.

The study found that for playing with non-gendered toys, boys were punished and rewarded for playing with gender-specific toys. Girls were often punished for playing tumble and roughly. This research also indicates that parents have strong views on which toys and forms of play are acceptable for both sexes and that they deliberately prevent their children from playing or using toys that are typically said to belong to the opposite sex.

This finding was followed by subsequent research in which parents’ involvement in children’s play was investigated. It found that parents were more likely to participate when their children played with toys that were typically thought ideal for their gender. Therefore, parents urge their children to prioritise gender-based toys and ignore toys that are atypical to the sexes, either specifically through punishment or implicitly through lack of involvement.

It was found that conventional gender separation of toys did not reflect the views of parents on toy suitability when analysing the views of parents on toys with gender stereotypes. This study found that parents have identified several toys typically considered male or female gender-neutral.

To restrict variables such as colour that influence the categorisation of the sexes, the physical properties of the toys used in this study were studied. (Reilly, 2017). Therefore, based on something beyond the physical properties of the toy, the parents must have made their choice. The researchers thought this may be due to a recent divergence from the traditional stereotype of gender.

Parental Influence on Children’s Toy Choices and Reasoning

It has been proposed that, before recognising that they are of a certain gender, children learn gender behaviour. It does this through an adult modelling and empowerment process. As described earlier, based on the gender of the infant, praise and punishment for parents vary.

They applaud girls and boys for gender-specific conduct and blame them for non-gender-specific behaviour. (Druga, 2018). These sections of the literature indicate that, through the social experiences they encounter in early childhood, children develop gender identity and gender behaviour.

This position is called the hypothesis of social learning on the acquisition of gender designations and gender actions in children and opposes the theory of the cognitive growth of children who obtain gender-specific behaviour. Cognitive development theory indicates that before gaining an awareness of the traditional activities associated with each gender, children become conscious of their own gender.

Gender behaviour is seen as a precursor to the mechanism of gender formation from the viewpoint of social learning theorists, while cognitive science theorists agree that gender development is a causal factor in children’s teaching of gender behaviour. Also, parents, as principal socialisers of toddlers, have an immense capacity to impact the occurrence of gender-based activity in their child from a social learning viewpoint and can therefore impact the types of toys with which children play. (Dinella, 2018).

Conclusion

This Essay presents two studies examining gender-based toys for boys and girls. The Observation from the above literature has shown that toys are still presented in a very predictable way as dominant gender roles. Dolls were consistently seen for girls in household activities, while guns, cars, and action figures displaying hostility or abuse were consistently regarded as something for boys. There were, however, also toys that were usually considered acceptable for kids of both genders. The second observation shows that toys belonging to the Female gender were more attractive and more focused on appearance.

Boy toys were more likely to be deemed as aggressive as a toy for a girl. It is also observed that there are more competitive toys for boys. Another thing that is brought to light is that toys belonging to boys need adult supervision while playing while the toys belonging to girls are cute, compact and do not have anything harming.

References

Al Kurdi, B., 2017. Investigating the factors influencing parent toy purchase decisions: Reasoning and consequences. International Business Research, 10(4), pp.104-116.

Boe, J.L. and Woods, R.J., 2018. Parents’ influence on infants’ gender-typed toy preferences. Sex roles, 79(5-6), pp.358-373.

Dinella, L.M. and Weisgram, E.S., 2018. Gender-typing of children’s toys: Causes, consequences, and correlates. Sex Roles, 79(5-6), pp.253-259.

Druga, S., Williams, R., Park, H.W. and Breazeal, C., 2018, June. How smart are the smart toys? children and parents’ agent interaction and intelligence attribution. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 231-240).

Kollmayer, M., Schultes, M.T., Schober, B., Hodosi, T. and Spiel, C., 2018. Parents’ judgments about the desirability of toys for their children: Associations with gender role attitudes, gender-typing of toys, and demographics. Sex Roles, 79(5-6), pp.329-341.

Liu, L., Escudero, P., Quattropani, C. and Robbins, R.A., 2020. Factors affecting infant toy preferences: Age, gender, experience, motor development, and parental attitude. Infancy, 25(5), pp.593-617.

McReynolds, E., Hubbard, S., Lau, T., Saraf, A., Cakmak, M. and Roesner, F., 2017, May. Toys that listen: A study of parents, children, and internet-connected toys. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 5197-5207).

Reilly, D., Neumann, D.L. and Andrews, G., 2017. Gender differences in spatial ability: Implications for STEM education and approaches to reducing the gender gap for parents and educators. In Visual-spatial ability in STEM education (pp. 195-224). Springer, Cham.

Todd, B.K., Barry, J.A. and Thommessen, S.A., 2017. Preferences for ‘gender‐typed’toys in boys and girls aged 9 to 32 months. Infant and Child Development, 26(3), p.e1986.

Todd, B.K., Fischer, R.A., Di Costa, S., Roestorf, A., Harbour, K., Hardiman, P. and Barry, J.A., 2018. Sex differences in children’s toy preferences: A systematic review, meta‐regression, and meta‐analysis. Infant and Child Development, 27(2), p.e2064.

Zimmermann, L.K., 2017. Preschoolers’ perceptions of gendered toy commercials in the US. Journal of Children and Media, 11(2), pp.119-131.

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