The child's social network: Sex differences from three to six years

Candice Feiring, Michael Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The social networks of 85 young children as they make the transition from a home-centered to a more school-centered existence is examined using longitudinal data. When the children were three and six years of age, their mothers completed a questionnaire of network structure; at six years both the child and mother independently reported the friends that the child would invite to a birthday party. The effects of age and sex of child on the number and daily contact with peers, adults, kin, nonkin, males, and females were found. As expected, as children reached formal school age they had increased contact with peers and decreased contact with kin, while adult contact remained fairly consistent over the three- to six-year age period. Sex differences were also apparent. As predicted, children as early as 3 years, and to an even greater extent at six years, showed more same-sex compared to opposite-sex peer contact. At six years both children and mothers reported more same- as compared to opposite-sex friends who would be invited by the child to a birthday party. The findings suggest how children's social networks, as shaped by their parents and themselves, provide a framework within which experience and interaction is structured to fit cultural norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-636
Number of pages16
JournalSex Roles
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Dec 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Gender Studies


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