Children's use of race and gender as cues to social status

Tara M. Mandalaywala, Christine Tai, Marjorie Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social hierarchies are ubiquitous and determine a range of developmental outcomes, yet little is known about when children develop beliefs about status hierarchies in their communities. The present studies (3.5-6.9 years; N = 420) found that children begin to use gender and race as cues to status in early childhood, but that gender and race related to different status dimensions and had different consequences for inter-group attitudes. Children expected boys to hold higher status as defined by access to resources and decision-making power (e.g., having more toys and choosing what other people play with) but did not expect boys to have more wealth overall. Gender-related status beliefs did not relate to gender-related social preferences; instead, children preferred members of their own gender, regardless of their status beliefs. In contrast, children expected White people to be wealthier than Black people, and among some populations of children, the belief that White people were higher status (as defined by access to resources and decision-making power) weakly related to pro-White bias. Children's status-expectations about others were unrelated to beliefs about their own status, suggesting children more readily apply category-based status beliefs to others than to themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0234398
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Hierarchy, Social
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychology, Child
  • Racial Groups/psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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