The past few years have seen more complexity added to the way we speak about gender, and one psych professor has some interesting new findings about how children develop their gender identities that will likely get tongues wagging.

Vanessa LoBue is assistant professor of psychology at Rutgers University Newark, and her findings indicate that kids are pretty flexible with in the early days:

Before the age of five, children don’t seem to think that gender has any permanence at all. A preschooler might ask his female teacher whether she was a boy or girl when she was little, or a little boy might say that he wants to grow up to be a mommy.

But after a period of heightened gender rigidity, they tend to mellow out again:

…children between the ages of three and five prefer to play with members of their own gender. And they also prefer to engage with gender-stereotyped toys and activities. It isn’t until a few years later – when they are between seven and 10 years of age – that children become more relaxed about maintaining behaviors that are strictly male or female. It is around that age, for example, when both boys and girls might admit that they “like to play with trucks” or “like to play with dolls.”

LoBue thinks that kids are “ahead of their time,” but it seems to us that they seem to just be more relaxed about the concept than we are. Perhaps we could take a few pointers from them.

You can read the entire scholarly article at The Conversation, and take it from us: it makes for some very interesting reading.

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