Effects of Gender and Color Choice on Preschoolers’ Art Production
By Linda A Morin and Constance Chan
- Boyatzis & Eades (1999) determined that preschoolers produced gender stereotypical art in terms of content. They also cite many studies with similar results conducted with elementary school children.
- Wolf (1948) found gender differences in the graphic movement of adults (handwriting) by looking at overall form (use of space). Berenfelt (1987) studied the graphic movement of toddlers (scribbling) and found gender differences in the time spent on the activity when there was visual feedback and when there was no visual feedback.
Research suggests that boys and girls produce different kinds of drawings according to their gender. This study examined whether male and female preschoolers differed in their spontaneous paintings and responses top color. Thirty predominantly white preschoolers (12 boys, 18 girls) from Gorse Child Study Center at Mount Holyoke College painted with chromatic (red, blue, and yellow) and achromatic paint (black, white, and gray) paints. Time spent painting and space covered on the page were measured. There were no differences in time spent painting or amount of space covered for boys and girls or for chromatic and achromatic paints. Time spent painting and amount of space covered on the page may not be the appropriate measures to identify gender differences in this context. Previous studies have shown significant differences in the content of boys’ and girls’ art productions.
It was hypothesized that girls, whether using chromatic or achromatic paint, would cover more of the paper with paint than boys in their spontaneous art productions. It was also expected that children would spend more time painting with chromatic than achromatic paint. An interaction was expected between color type and gender in terms of time. Specifically, girls would spend more time painting than boys would when using achromatic paint.
- Achromatic Colors (white, gray and black)
- Chromatic Colors (Blue, red and yellow)
12 boys and 18 girls from Mount Holyoke College Gorse Child Study Center participated with parental permission.
Chromatic paints (red, blue and yellow)
Achromatic paints (black, white and gray)
¾ inch brushes
20 inches by 20 inches white paper
20 inches by 20 inches clear plastic grid of 100 2-inch square boxes.
- Children were asked to go to the easel. One day they painted with chromatic paints and one day they painted with achromatic paints. (Counterbalanced)
- The experimenters observed the children from the observation booth.
- Stopwatches were used to time the children.
- Space covered on the paper was determined by using the grid. (inter-observer agreement)
Mixed-design ANOVA used to test for differences in time spent painting by girls and boys overall, and to test for differences in children’s time spent painting with chromatic versus achromatic paint:
- NO significant main effect found for gender. Girls (M= 57.590) did not spend more time painting than boys (M= 52.761), F(1,28)=1.667, Mse=41473.600, p=.207
- NO significant main effect found for color type. Children did not spend more time with chromatic paint (M=58.138) than achromatic paint (M=52.213),
F(1,28)=2.330, Mse=38979.211, p=.138
- NO interaction between gender and color type, F(1,28)=2.718, Mse=45472.544, p=.110
Mixed design ANOVA used to test for differences in space covered on the page by boys and girls overall, and to test for differences in children’s paint coverage when using chromatic versus achromatic paint:
- NO significant main effect was found for gender. Girls (M=251.167) did not cover more space than boys (M=197.500), F(1,28)=.285, Mse=335.820, p=.598
- NO significant main effect was found for color type. Children did not cover more space with achromatic paint (M=198.319) than chromatic paint (M=250.347), F(1,28)=1.180, Mse=505.616, p=.287
- NO interaction between gender and color type
F(1,28)=.456, Mse=195.600, p=.505
- Early identification of gender- stereotypical behaviors and their causes stimulates intervention intended to interrupt cycles of gender inequality. The study of gender differences can also lead to better understanding and utilization of the strengths of both sexes.
- Time and space might not be the appropriate measure to identify gender differences.
- More control of the environment is needed. For example: Have the child paint in a room separate from classroom activities.
- Drawing maybe more easily compared to handwriting than painting.
- A good follow up study can be to look at the content and interview the child about it. Also, it may be more relevant to measure the overall form of spontaneous drawings rather than paintings.