Experienced and Expected Similarity to Same-Gender Peers: Moving Toward a Comprehensive Model of Gender Segregation

Carol Martin, Richard Fabes, Laura Hanish, Stacie Leonard, Lisa M. Dinella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Gender segregation is often explained by children being interested in interacting with other children who behave similarly to themselves. Children's beliefs about girls and boys (i. e., their gender cognitions) may also play a role in gender segregation, but this idea has received little attention. In this study, we proposed a model of gender segregation that included similarity on gender-typed behavioral qualities (e. g., rough and tumble play) and gender cognitions concerning perceived similarity to same-gender others, and we assessed whether this more comprehensive heuristic model predicted observed peer interactions in young U. S. children (n = 74; M age = 51 m; middle-class families). A multi-method design was employed including observations of behavior and child reports of gender cognitions. Support was found for the linkages proposed in this comprehensive model for boys; partial support was found for girls. Specifically, the inclusion of gender cognitions was supported for both genders: gender cognitions about perceived similarity related to interactional partner choices for both girls and boys, and accounted for variance in observed partner choices even after behavioral similarity was included in the model. The traditional link concerning behavioral similarity on rough-and-tumble play predicted boys' but not girls' interactions. The findings extend knowledge about the role of social cognitions in social behavior, and are consistent with ideas proposed by gender schema theory and other constructivist theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)421-434
Number of pages14
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Gender cognition
  • Gender schemas
  • Gender-segregation
  • Peers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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