Author(s): Maccoby Eleanor E
In the years between preschool and puberty, the free play of children occurs largely in sex-segregated groups. Some differences in the socialization setting provided by all-boy and all-girl playgroups are described, and possible reasons for children's tendency to congregate in same-sex groups are explored. This article suggests that sex-differentiated play styles and modes of exerting peer influence are important factors. Three classes of possible explanatory processes are considered: biological factors, socialization pressures from adults, and gender cognitions. The article claims that "masculinity" and "femininity," as dimensions of individual differences, may not be linked to preference for same-sex playmates, and that these two aspects of sex-typing require different explanations. Segregation is depicted as a group phenomenon, essentially unrelated to the individual attributes of the children who make up all-girl or all-boy groups. Concepts of gender identity and core categorical membership are seen as the primary cognitive underpinnings for segregation.