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Age-related variations and sex differences in gender cleavage during middle childhood

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 12:45 authored by Burton-Smith, R, Davidson, JA, Ball, PJ
Gender cleavage, the segregation of the sexes, is a powerful phenomenon affecting socialization during childhood, but its developmental trajectory is far from clear. Sociometric responses by 299 boys and girls in Grades 3 to 6 from a group preference record were used to investigate age-related variations and sex differences in gender cleavage. Moreno's (1953) developmental model of gender cleavage was examined in the light of sociocultural changes, as well as advances in the theory and measurement of gender cleavage. Sex differences were found in same-gender preference, with older elementary girls showing greater same-gender preference than boys of the same age. However, this finding, plus the absence of gender differences in cross-gender evaluations, did not support more recent developmental accounts of gender cleavage. Linear trend analyses contradicted Moreno's basic precept of increasing same-gender preference between Grades 3 and 6. While same-gender acceptance and rejection were relatively similar regardless of grade level, cross-gender acceptance was greater in higher than in lower grades and the reverse was true for rejection. Furthermore, weaker gender cleavage effects in rejection data than in acceptance data suggested that strong same-gender liking does not infer equally robust cross-gender dislike. Gender cleavage appears to be relative rather than absolute. A more complex model is proposed incorporating sex differences as well as rejection evaluations.


Publication title

Personal Relationships








School of Psychological Sciences


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

Cambridge, UK

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Gender aspects in education

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    University Of Tasmania