. It is necessary to carry out longitudinal studies, in which children are observed and followed over time, to better understand the socialization of peers of the same gender and of the opposite gender.
Whenever children get together, opportunities are created for them to socialize with each other along the lines of gender. Research and findings related to peer socialization of the gender development of younger children suggest that boys and girls grow up in separate social worlds, rarely having the chance to learn about each other and learn from each other.2,4, 8 In addition, some speculate that this separation and lack of understanding is transmitted to later male-female relationships in adolescence and adulthood.2 Basically, children develop skills to interact with members of their own gender, but opportunities for developing skills to interact comfortably and effectively with the opposite gender are more limited. Gender segregation, motivated by both children and adults, can become problematic, because children grow up in a society where genders are integrated. Families, schools, neighborhood settings and workplaces include members of both genders. To be successful in all the diverse environments they will know and live in, children must be able to interact and relate effectively with both male and female individuals.
We suggest that parents, service providers and policy makers help younger children to structure and organize their interactions with peers to maximize the benefits of peer socialization. This is particularly important for interactions with peers of the opposite gender, because children need support to understand gender differences and to feel comfortable with peers of the opposite gender. One way to do this is to provide opportunities for children to play positively with both boys and girls, in mixed gender groups. Mixed gender groups can provide a safe environment in which to learn about the similarities and differences between genders and to develop skills that allow children to interact effectively with both boys and girls.
It is also important to recognize that peer influences associated with gender segregation contribute to gender differences in children’s behaviors and attitudes. The separation of boys from girls exaggerates these differences, but some people do not understand this fact very well. For example, some authors suggest that boys and girls are so different from each other that they should be taught in separate classrooms, one for boys and one for girls.13,14 Unfortunately, these individuals do not understand that, in first, it is the socialization of peers within gender-segregated groups that contributes to the differences between boys and girls and that the determination of a separation between them in classrooms will only strengthen and reinforce gender-typified behaviors and differences.11 , 15,16 Furthermore, classrooms segregated by gender in themselves do not result in improvements in learning and performance.17 Efforts should be directed to finding ways to bring boys and girls closer together so that they have positive experiences with each other. others and develop greater understanding, appreciation and mutual respect.18
The views expressed in this document do not necessarily represent UNICEF’s policies or views.