The effect of gender context on children's social behavior in a limited resource situation: An observational study
Green, VA and Cillessen, A and Berthelsen, D and Irving, K and Catherwood, D, The effect of gender context on children's social behavior in a limited resource situation: An observational study, Social Development, 12, (4) pp. 586-604. ISSN 0961-205X (2003) [Refereed Article]
Knowing when to compete and when to cooperate to maximize opportunities for equal access to activities and materials in groups is critical to children's social and cognitive development. The present study examined the individual (gender, social competence) and contextual factors (gender context) that may determine why some children are more successful than others. One hundred and fifty-six children (M age = 6.5 years) were divided into 39 groups of four and videotaped while engaged in a task that required them to cooperate in order to view cartoons. Children within all groups were unfamiliar to one another. Groups varied in gender composition (all girls, all boys, or mixed-sex) and social competence (high vs. low). Group composition by gender interaction effects were found. Girls were most successful at gaining viewing time in same-sex groups, and least successful in mixed-sex groups. Conversely, boys were least successful in same-sex groups and most successful in mixed-sex groups. Similar results were also found at the group level of analysis; however, the way in which the resources were distributed differed as a function of group type. Same-sex girl groups were inequitable but efficient whereas same-sex boy groups were more equitable than mixed groups but inefficient compared to same-sex girl groups. Social competence did not influence children's behavior. The findings from the present study highlight the effect of gender context on cooperation and competition and the relevance of adopting an unfamiliar peer paradigm when investigating children's social behavior.