Psychology, Department of


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Whiting, B.B. & Edwards, C.P. (1973). A cross‑cultural analysis of sex differences in the behavior of children aged 3‑11. Journal of Social Psychology, 91, 171‑188.


Copyright © 1973 The Journal Press.

This article has been reprinted several times: in SOURCES: Notable Selections in Human Development, 2nd Edition, ed. R. Diessner & J.K. Tiegs. 2001;
Childhood Socialization,
ed. G. Handel. New York: Aldine DeGruyter, 1988.;
Beyond Sex Role Stereotypes: Readings Toward Psychology of Androgeny, ed. A. G. Kaplan & J.P. Bean.Boston: Little, Brown, 1976;
Annual Progress in Child Psychiatry and Child Development,
ed. S. Chess & A. Thomas. New York: Bruner/Mazel, 1974;
Culture and Personality: Contemporary Readings, ed. R. A. LeVine.Chicago: Aldine, 1974.


This paper uses the cross-cultural, systematic child observations of the Six Culture Study, led by John and Beatrice Whiting of Harvard University, to investigate the validity of the stereotypes of sex differences about nurturance, aggression, compliance, dependency, and other behaviors. The children aged 3 – 11 years, were observed in natural settings in seven different parts of the world. The analysis indicates that there are universal sex differences in the children’s behavior, but the differences are not consistent nor as great as the studies of American and Western European children would suggest. Furthermore, socialization pressure in the form of task assignment and the associated frequency of interaction with many different categories of individuals—i.e. infants, adults, and peers—may well explain many of the differences. Aggression, perhaps especially rough and tumble play, and touching behavior seem the best candidates for biophysical genesis. All of the behaviors that are characteristic of males and females seem malleable under the impact of socialization pressures. The differences in many of the types of behavior seem to be one of style rather than intent.

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