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KID STUFF : Parents Treat Boys, Girls Differently

March 14, 1994|NEWSDAY

Do parents treat girls and boys differently? Most parents acknowledge that they do, although many insist that boys demand it by acting differently than girls.

Boys, even the most liberated parents contend, tend to be physical, to fight and to prefer cars, trucks and other machines.

Tom Fisher and Scott Davenport, a gay couple in Montclair, N.J., say they deliberately bought clothes in primary colors for Kati, 3, and Fritz, 18 months. "Yet," says Fisher, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International, "first time Fritz saw a truck, he burst into smiles."

But others suggest that masculine and feminine cues are insidious, yet strong.

"Even in the color of the blanket at the hospital there is sex differentiation," says Evelyn Hausman Jakabovics, a psychologist in New Rochelle, N.Y. "Frequently, you have much more traditional roles being enforced than what people think they are doing."

Boys' rooms tend to contain more educational toys and sports equipment. A Tufts University study asked parents to describe their infants. Boys were rated firmer, bigger and more coordinated than they really were; girls came out softer and finer.

When boys fight, psychologist Ann Caron says, mothers will separate them. But with girls, they will talk about the other child's feelings. "We are constantly trying to make our daughters nicer."

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