5-3 | Gender Segregation in Early-Childhood Social Play among the Bofi Foragers and Bofi Farmers in Central Africa

Article

Gender Segregation in Early-Childhood Social Play among the Bofi Foragers and Bofi Farmers in Central Africa

Hillary N. Fouts, Rena A. Hallam, and Swapna Purandare

Abstract:

Gender segregation in early-childhood social play is a pervasive pattern in North America, and child-development scholars have suggested it is a human universal. But very few researchers have looked at gender segregation in small-scale societies, particularly those of hunter-gatherers, whom the authors here call foragers. The authors present their observations of fifty-six, one- to four-year-old children living in two small-scale cultures—Bofi farmers and Bofi foragers—in Central Africa. They examined gender and age variation in the social play of these two groups and found that three- to four-year-olds became more segregated by gender than one- to two-year-olds and that boys in particular showed a tendency to play with other boys. The authors also found that cultural differences became more manifest as gender segregation grew more prominent among the children of Bofi farmers than Bofi foragers. Key words: Central Africa, early childhood, gender, gender segregation, sex segregation, social play