The National Science Foundation is spending over $130,000 on a study that asks four-year-olds about their “internal sense of gender identity.”
A grant for a two-year study was awarded to the University of Washington this summer. The project will interview 250 children aged four to six, and their parents, asking a series of questions about “gendered behavior.”
“Prominent theories of gender development have discussed the degree to which gender identity results from an internal sense of gender and socialization processes,” according to the grant. “However, tests of these theories have been limited because, for most children, internal gender identity and environmental socialization substantially overlap, rendering it impossible to distinguish the relative impact of each factor on gender development.”
The study will investigate whether gender theories, such as Gender Schema Theory that blames society on differences between genders, are sufficient for today’s “wider range of human gender experiences,” where there can be anywhere between 3, 37, and 58 genders.
Among the study’s questions asked of preschoolers includes what gender toys they play with.
“The project will involve asking 250, 4- to 6-year olds and their parents to complete a battery of measures assessing early and current gender socialization, children’s internal sense of gender identity, children’s gendered behavior (e.g., preferences for gender-typed toys) and measures of related gender cognition (e.g., memory for gender-consistent vs. inconsistent behaviors),” the grant states. “These measures will allow the researchers to examine the relative contributions of internal gender identity and socialization and ultimately provide a more comprehensive theory accounting for early gender development.”
The University of Washington received $138,000 for the project in July. The study will continue through June 2019.
Kristina Olson and Selin Gülgöz, two researchers at the university, are leading the study. Both are involved with the school’s “TransYouth Project,” a longitudinal study of gender development and mental health of transgender children.
The TransYouth Project was featured in the Katie Couric documentary for National Geographic,Gender Revolution.
“Our current research study is recruiting children aged 3–12 who are transgender, gender nonconforming, and siblings of gender nonconforming children,” the website for the project states.