Men ap­pear more pow­er­ful than women to chil­dren, says re­search

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LON­DON: Re­searchers have found that chil­dren, as early as 4 years, might see males as more pow­er­ful than fe­males.

Pub­lished in the jour­nal Sex Roles, the study by the French Na­tional Cen­tre for Sci­en­tific Re­search, showed chil­dren as­so­ci­ated power and mas­culin­ity. In some sit­u­a­tions, the power-mas­culin­ity as­so­ci­a­tion didn’t man­i­fest in girls.

The re­searchers wanted to know whether chil­dren aged 3-6 years in France, Lebanon and Nor­way at­trib­uted more power to mas­cu­line fig­ures than fem­i­nine fig­ures.

In first ex­per­i­ment, they showed chil­dren a pic­ture with two non-gen­dered in­di­vid­u­als, with one of them in dom­i­nant phys­i­cal pos­ture and the other in sub­or­di­nate pos­ture.

First, the chil­dren had to guess which of these two in­di­vid­u­als was ex­ert­ing power over the other. Next they had to as­sign a gen­der to each in­di­vid­ual.

The re­sults re­vealed that from 4 years on­ward, a large ma­jor­ity of chil­dren con­sid­ered the dom­i­nant in­di­vid­ual to be a boy.

The power-mas­culin­ity as­so­ci­a­tion was ob­served in both boys and girls, and just as much in Lebanon as in France and Nor­way. But it was not sig­nif­i­cant in 3-year-old chil­dren.

In sec­ond ex­per­i­ment, school go­ing chil­dren, aged 4-5 years, in France had to imag­ine them­selves in the pic­ture and imag­ine the other per­son as a boy or a girl. When the chil­dren had to con­sider their power re­la­tion with a per­son of the same gen­der as them­selves, girls and boys both largely iden­ti­fied with the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter.

But when they had to con­sider their power re­la­tion with a per­son of the op­po­site gen­der, boys iden­ti­fied more of­ten with the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter, but girls didn’t sig­nif­i­cantly iden­tify more with one or other of the char­ac­ters, the study said.

Fi­nally, in third ex­per­i­ment, chil­dren aged 4-5 years in Lebanon and France were al­lowed to watch a series of ex­changes be­tween two pup­pets, one rep­re­sent­ing girl and the other boy, be­hind a board.

In one case, the pup­pets were get­ting ready to play a game to­gether and the child heard one im­pose their choices on the other. In the other case, one pup­pet had more money than the other to buy ice cream.

In France and Lebanon, most boys thought the pup­pet that im­posed its choices or that had more money was the male pup­pet.

But girls in both coun­tries didn’t at­tribute the dom­i­nant po­si­tion prefer­ably to one or other gen­der.

These re­sults showed chil­dren had early sen­si­tiv­ity to a gen­der hi­er­ar­chy, though in some sit­u­a­tions girls didn’t as­so­ciate power and mas­culin­ity. The re­searchers hope to find out what power forms they at­tribute to fem­i­nine fig­ures and whether they le­git­imise the ex­pres­sion of gen­dered power.

Ac­cord­ing to a sep­a­rate study re­gard­ing chil­dren, fewer than two in ev­ery 100 packed lunches eaten by chil­dren in pri­mary schools meet nu­tri­tional stan­dards.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers from Univer­sity of Leeds, who con­ducted a ma­jor sur­vey in UK, the lack of fresh food is to blame.

“This study un­der­lines the role that par­ents, car­ers, the gov­ern­ment and the food in­dus­try have in en­sur­ing chil­dren eat more healthily,” said study re­searcher Char­lotte Evans from Univer­sity of Leeds.

“The re­search has found that on some fronts, packed lunches have im­proved but they are still dom­i­nated by sweet and savoury snack food and sug­ary drinks. The vast ma­jor­ity pro­vide poor nu­tri­tional qual­ity. Ad­dress­ing that is­sue over the next 10 years will re­quire a con­certed ef­fort,” Evans added.

For the find­ings, pub­lished in the jour­nal BMJ Open, the re­search com­pared the nu­tri­tional qual­ity of packed lunches brought into a sam­ple of pri­mary schools in 2006 and then in 2016.

The re­sults re­veal how the nu­tri­tional qual­ity of lunch­boxes has changed over 10 years.

It is es­ti­mated that more than half of pri­mary school­child­ren take a packed lunch to school.

Over the 10-year pe­riod, the re­searchers found that many chil­dren did not have any dairy foods in their lunch, and meals did not meet the rec­om­mended stan­dard for cal­cium.

There was a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of packed lunches meet­ing the stan­dards for vi­ta­min A, vi­ta­min C and zinc.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, there was no re­duc­tion in sat­u­rated fats. There was no re­duc­tion in the por­tion size of crisps.

The re­searchers said the food in­dus­try has not fo­cused on re­duc­ing the size of savoury snacks in the same way it has on sweet snacks.

Although the amount of sug­ary food in lunch­boxes de­clined over ten years it is still higher than rec­om­mended.

The re­searchers in­ves­ti­gated whether packed lunches met the food stan­dards that ap­ply to cooked meals in Eng­land’s schools.

Since 2006, eight stan­dards have been in­tro­duced for cooked school lunches.

Con­fec­tionery, savoury snacks and sweet­ened drinks are re­stricted while veg­eta­bles, protein and dairy have to be in­cluded in each meal.

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