Adults tend to stereotype femininity and masculinity in babies as young as three-months old based solely on hearing their cries. In a study out of the University of Sussex, researchers found:
- Adults (wrongly) assumed babies with higher-pitched cries are girls, and lower pitched cries are boys.
- Adults also assumed babies with higher-pitched cries were in more pain.
- Men assumed higher-pitched cries in boys meant the baby was in more discomfort. This is likely due to an ingrained stereotype that boy babies “should” have low-pitched cries.
“There is already widespread evidence that gender stereotypes influence parental behavior but this is the first time we have seen it occur in relation to babies’ cries, said Dr David Reby from the Psychology School at the University of Sussex. “We now plan to investigate if such stereotypical attributions affect the way babies are treated, and whether parents inadvertently choose different clothes, toys and activities based on the pitch of their babies’ cries.