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5 Facts About Kids' Social Lives


Girls Play with Girls, and Boys Play with Boys

Opposite-gender children function together quite well when there's an adult in charge. But when it's a matter of personal choice, they relentlessly segregate themselves into same-sex playgroups. This isn't because boys and girls are inherently incompatible, though: In studies of intelligence and personality traits, there's very little difference between individual girls and boys. But groups of boys behave very differently from groups of girls. By second or third grade, both boys and girls become fiercely intolerant of any variation in what they consider acceptable male or female behavior, and they monitor each other constantly for any sign of divergence from the "right" behavior, clothes, toys, or interests. For some children, the pressure can be absolutely agonizing. "My eight-year-old daughter worries herself sick over what clothes she should choose: Is pink too girly-girl? Is my T-shirt too tomboyish?" says Francine Gugliotta of Hicksville, NY.

Eventually, most kids figure out for themselves how to pass the test, even if they have to fake it to make it. "My son Jake, who's eight, still loves everything related to Legos and Star Wars, but the boys at school say those interests are 'stupid,'?" says Nashville mom Lou Anne Wolfson. "He still plays with Legos and watches Star Wars, but only in the privacy of his own home. At school, he talks about shooting air guns and playing Super Smash Brothers on the Wii."