Children With Disabilities Express Less Concrete Gender-Based Biases:

Social Development of Gender Perceptions from Preoperational to Formal Operational Stages


  • Jolie Haertter Honors Student



children, disability, gender, stereotype


Abnormalities with processing social concepts as children may display with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Nonverbal learning disorder (NSLD). The purpose of the study was to observe how children with disabilities and nondisabled children viewed gender stereotypes. Images of gender-advertised toys and clothing items were utilized to determine gender-biases held by preschoolers (ages 3-6), upper-elementary level students (ages 10-12), and high school level students (ages 15-18). This project raises awareness of cultural stereotypes in society and their impact on childhood perception development. 177 students were shown images of gender-advertised clothing and entertainment items and asked to categorize each object as a boy, girl, or both. Students with disabilities had less gender bias compared to their nondisabled counterparts. The children in all groups had increased stereotyped responses to clothing items as opposed to toys. The preschoolers displayed the most stereotypical responses, the upper-elementary schoolers responded with the least biased responses as they had gained more exposure to toy and clothing options, and the highschoolers solidified their opinions with moderate stereotypes, notably in clothing items. Presenting increased non-stereotypical opinions, there was a significant difference in gender perception in students with disabilities. The difference in responses to gender perception between students with and without disabilities assimilated in all categories by high school age, meaning there was no significant difference in gender perception by this stage.


Brault, M.W. (2010). School-Aged Children With Disabilities in Metropolitan Areas: 2010. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Disability and Health Overview. Retrieved from
Davis, J.T.M., Hines, M. How Large Are Gender Differences in Toy Preferences? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Toy Preference Research. Arch Sex Behav 49, 373–394 (2020).
Davis, J. T., Parr, G., & Lan, W. (1997). Differences between learning disability subtypes classified using the revised Woodcock-Johnson psycho-educational battery. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30(3), 346–352,
Fagot, B. I. & Leinbach, M. D. (1993). Gender-role development in young children: from discrimination to labeling, developmental review, Volume 13, Issue 2, Pages 205-224, ISSN 0273-2297,
Ferri B. A. & Gregg N. (1998). Women with disabilities: Missing voices. Women's Studies International Forum 21(4): 429--439,
Feinberg, R. A., Mataro, L., & Burroughs, W. J. (1992). Clothing and social identity. Clothing & Textiles Research Journal, 11, 18 –23. doi: 10.1177/0887302X9201100103
Fine, C. (2010). Delusions of gender. New York, NY: Norton.
Froschl, et al. (1999). Connecting gender and disability. Equity Resource Center.
Halim, M. L., Ruble, D. N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Zosuls, K. M., Lurye, L. E., & Greulich, F. K. (2014). Pink frilly dresses and the avoidance of all things "girly": children's appearance “1091–1101.
Heise, L., Green M. E., Opper N., et al (2019).M Gender inequality and restrictive gender norms: framing the challenges to health, The Lancet, Volume 393, Issue 10189, Pages 2440-2454, ISSN 0140-6736,
Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development. Psychology Education Interactive. Valdosta State University. Retrieved August 2020 from
Huston, A. C. (1987). The development of sex typing: Themes from recent research. In S. Chess & A. Thomas (Eds.), Annual progress in child psychiatry and child development, 1986 (p. 168–186). Brunner/Mazel. (Reprinted from "Developmental Review," 1985, Vol. 5, 1-17)
Knapp, A. (2019). Social Skills Disabilities in Kids. Albert Knapp and Associates. Retrieved from
Lee, A. M. (2020). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The 13 disability categories under IDEA.
Martin, D., Cunningham, S. J., Hutchison, J., Slessor, G., & Smith, K. (2017). How societal stereotypes might form and evolve via cumulative cultural evolution. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(9), e12338.
Mason, E. & Nan H. (). Learning Disabilities, Gender, Sources of Efficacy, Self-Efficacy Beliefs, and Academic Achievement in High School Students, Journal of School Psychology, Volume 41, Issue 2,2003, Pages 101-112, ISSN 0022-4405,
Matthews, N. L., & Goldberg, W. A. (2018). Theory of mind in children with and without autism spectrum disorder: Associations with the sibling constellation. Autism, 22(3), 311–321.
Meltzoff A. N. (1999). Origins of theory of mind, cognition and communication. Journal of communication disorders, 32(4), 251–269.
Miller, C., Lurye, L. & et al (2009). Accessibility of Gender Stereotype Domains: Developmental and Gender Differences in Children. Sex roles. 60. 870-881. 10.1007/s11199-009-9584-x.
Müller, E., Schuler, A., & Yates, G. B. (2008). Social challenges and supports from the perspective of individuals with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disabilities. Autism, 12(2), 173–190.
Ocr. (2015). 513-Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule apply to an elementary or secondary school. Retrieved from oes-hipaa-apply-to-an-elementary-school/index.html.
Orenstein, P. (2010). Cinderella ate my daughter. New York, NY: Harper
Padawar, R. (2012). What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress?. New York Times Magazine.
Peterson, S.B., & Lach, M.A. (1990). Gender Stereotypes in Children's Books: Their Prevalence and Influence on Cognitive and Affective Development. Gender and Education, 2, 185-197.
Piaget, J. (1972). The psychology of intelligence. Totowa, NJ: Littlefield.
Ruble D. N., Taylor L. J., Cyphers L., Greulich F. K., Lurye L. E., Shrout P. E. (2007). The role of gender constancy in early gender development. Child Dev. 78 1121–1136. 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01056.x
"How Harmful Gender Norms Create an Unequal World for Children." Save the Children.
Smogorzewska J., Szumski G., & Grygiel P. (2018). Same or different? Theory of mind among children with and without disabilities. PLoS ONE 13(10): e0202553.
Understood (2020). Understanding Your Child's Trouble With Social Skills.
World Health Organization [and] The World Bank (2011). World report on disability. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 52-57.
United Nations (2018). UN Flagship Report on Disability and Sustainable Development Goals Enable, 46-51. Retrieved from



How to Cite

Haertter, J. (2021). Children With Disabilities Express Less Concrete Gender-Based Biases:: Social Development of Gender Perceptions from Preoperational to Formal Operational Stages. Pittsburgh Undergraduate Review, 1(1).