• gender stereotypes;
  • social evaluation;
  • self-presentation;
  • social cognition

Previous research has demonstrated that young children hold strong gender stereotypes for activities and toy preferences. Some researchers have argued that this rigid gender-typing displayed by young children is associated with peer reinforcement for stereotypical behaviour and punishment of counterstereotypical behaviour. The present study tests the hypothesis that the gender-typing displayed by young children is at least in part an active self presentational effort to win positive evaluation from peers. Sixty-four children aged between 4 and 9 years described themselves in terms of their activity and toy preferences, once when alone and once when in front of a group of same-sex peers. They also completed a task measuring the rigidity of their gender stereotypes. It was found using both group-based and individual-based analyses that the children with the most rigid stereotypes—young boys—were more likely to present themselves as sex-typed in front of the peer audience than when alone. The older boys and the girls in all age groups tended to have less rigid stereotypes and their self-descriptions were in general not influenced by the presence of an audience. These results show that self-presentational concerns do influence children’s gender-typed behaviour, and that these concerns may vary with age and gender.