Preschool Gender-Typed Play Behavior at Age 3.5 Years Predicts Physical Aggression at Age 13 Years16 Aug 2017
Gender differences in play behavior and physical aggression have been consistently reported. Theoretical perspectives concerning evolutionary, social, and social-cognitive mechanisms suggest that male-typical play behavior during childhood increases subsequent physical aggression. The evidence supporting these connections is limited, however. The present study investigated the association between gender-typed play behavior in early childhood and physical aggression in early adolescence using a sample drawn from a longitudinal, population study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Based on gender-typed play behavior as measured by the Pre-School Activities Inventory at age 3.5 years, samples of masculine (64 boys, 60 girls), feminine (80 boys, 66 girls), and randomly selected control children (55 boys, 67 girls) were recruited at age 13 years and administered the Reinisch Aggression Inventory. After controlling for a range of sociodemographic variables, maternal characteristics, and behavioral problems, including hyperactivity and conduct problems at age 3.5, significant group differences in physical aggression at age 13 were found among children classified as masculine, control, and feminine at age 3.5. Masculine children exhibited significantly more physical aggression than control children or feminine children, and control children exhibited significantly more physical aggression than feminine children. The association between gender-typed play behavior and physical aggression was not moderated by sex. These results suggest that the degree of childhood gender-typed play behavior independently predicts the degree of physical aggression at adolescence in boys and in girls.