Children Associate the Notion of Power With Masculinity

In general, most boys attribute notions of power and money to the male figure, according to one study. However, this trend is more significant among young boys.


Boys associate the notion of power with the male figure from an early age. This is at least what researchers at the Marc Jeannerod Institute of Cognitive Sciences and the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchâtel (Switzerland) say, who conducted a study of over 900 children aged 3 to 6 in France, Norway and Lebanon. Their results were published in the specialized magazine Sex Roles.

First experiment

The scientists showed the children a photo, which showed two characters without gender, one with a dominant posture and the other with a subordinate posture. The children were asked to determine which character dominated the other and, finally, to assign a gender to each character.

“The results reveal that, from the age of 4, the vast majority of children consider the dominant character to be a boy,” the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) said in a press release. This association has been observed among children in Lebanon, France and Norway. However, it seems that this representation is less significant at age 3.

Second experiment

Secondly, the 4 and 5 year olds, all of them at school in France, had to imagine that they were one of the two characters portrayed in the image in question. The vast majority of them identified themselves with the figure of power when they had to imagine themselves in front of a child of the same sex. But when they had to imagine themselves in front of a child of the opposite sex, most of the boys chose the figure of domination, while the girls did not identify more with one than with the other.

Third experiment

Finally, the four and five-year-old children from France and Lebanon attended two puppet shows and had to guess which one was a woman and which one was a man. The researchers made sure that one puppet imposed its choices on the other, and then, in the second performance, that it had money to buy ice cream. Most children identified the puppet that imposed their choices and the puppet with the money as the male figure.

“These results show an early sensitivity of boys to a gender hierarchy, although girls, in certain situations, do not associate power with masculinity,” concludes the CNRS.

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