Men appear more powerful than women to children, says research
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.