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Sex-stereotyping in Children's Preferences for Musical Instruments

  • Rosemary Bruce and Anthony Kemp


This paper considers the effects of children's gender associations on their preferences for musical instruments, and questions whether the limited range of instrumental selection made by boys can be regarded as a result of such associations.

The research project was devised to investigate the responses of infant school children to male and female musicians. The findings indicated that instrumental preferences were influenced by gender associations which could be lessened by providing positive role models. Whereas girls were more able to cross over gender divisions than boys, boys had a narrower range of interests in instruments. It was shown that the provision of an opposite gendered role model helped to overcome the associations made with particular instruments.



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Bruce, R. (1992) Sex-Stereotyping in Children's Preferences for Musical Instruments. Unpublished MA dissertation. University of Reading.
Equal Opportunities Commission (1982 revised edition) Do You Provide Equal Opportunities? Manchester: Equal Opportunities Commission.
Griswold, P. A. & Chroback, D. A. (1981) Sex-role Associations of Musical Instruments and Occupations by Gender and Major. Journal of Research in Music Education, 26, 5762.
Harper, J. (1986) Sex-Role, Stereotyping in Music. Sell, David (ed.) in Studies in Music Education, No. 1. New Zealand: University of Canterbury.
Kemp, A. E. (1982) The Personality Structure of the Musician: III The Significance of Sex Differences. Psychology of Music, 10, 4858.
Kemp, A. E. (1985) Psychological Androgyny in Musicians. Council for Research in Music Education Bulletin, 85, 102108.
Smithers, A. & Zienteck, P. (1991) Gender, Primary Schools and the National Curriculum. London:National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, joint publication with the School of Education, University of Manchester.


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