Back in the free-thinking Seventies, much parenting advice suggested that children were blank slates who wouldn't adopt gender-stereotyped behaviors if society didn't teach them to do so.
Many well-meaning parents dutifully offered toy trucks to their daughters, and dolls and playhouses to their sons, only to see the kids reject them for the "gender-typical" toy of choice.
(Or, in the case of certain boys, demolish the playhouse with a wrecking ball made of D-cells taped together on a string. But that's a different story.)
Swedish toy carEnlarge Photo
Well, now it turns out that scientific data supports what parents have known all along: When offered a range of toys, boys as young as nine months tend to choose toy cars and balls, while girls will opt for the dolls and teddy bears.
The researchers who presented their paper last week at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Stratford Upon Avon said their work suggests most children have an "intrinsic bias" towards gender-typical toys.
The BBC quoted one researcher, Dr. Brenda Todd, saying the team was "surprised" to find such consistent differences in toy choices between boys and girls less than a year and a half old.
But as the mothers of most adults sons will attest from experience, "boys will be boys"--which in most cases means playing with cars, both toy and real, whether they're rip-snorting, all-American Chevrolet Camaros or esoteric, imported Lotus Evoras.
Until they discover sex, that is.