Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Edwards, C.P., Knoche, L., & Kumru, A. (2001). Play patterns and gender. In J. Worell (Ed.), Encyclopedia of women and gender: Sex similarities and differences and the impact of society on gender (pp. 809-815). San Diego: Academic Press.


Copyright © 2001 Academic Press. Used by permission.


This cross-cultural analysis examines the gendered patterns of play seen in children worldwide. Play is a culturally universal activity through which children explore themselves and their environment, test out and practice different social roles, and learn to interact with other children and adults. Early in life, children identify themselves as a “girl” or a “boy,” and this basic self-categorization lays a foundation for their developing beliefs about with whom, what, how, and where they will play. Children play an active role in their own and their peers’ “gender socialization” (the process by which they come to acquire the knowledge, values, and skills needed to behave “appropriately” as a male or female in their society). However, they are greatly influenced by the adult community, as represented by institutions of family, neighborhood school, and the media. These agents of socialization contribute to children's understanding of gender roles and expectations, and these in turn influence the developing play patterns of children, as seen in their toy and activity preferences; rough and tumble play; constructive/creative play; and games.