Gendered Differences in Australian Toddlers’ Clothing

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Abstract

There is much debate regarding the contributions of environmental factors, such as clothing, to gender development. This initial exploratory study investigated the gendered difference in Australian toddlers’ (12–18 months) clothing. Clothing images from online catalogues of three children’s wear retailers were subjected to inductive content analysis to examine and compare toddler boys’ and girls’ clothing, regarding colour, theme, quantity, type, pattern, phrases, clothing features, material, price, and garment fit. Some 4,714 product images were included, comprising 4,233 clothing items and 481 accessories. Results suggest that, in particular, toddlers’ clothing colours, themes, and features reinforce traditional gender stereotypes. Boys’ clothing had an average higher price than girls’ clothing, which was more likely to be at discounted prices. Additionally, sexualisation was observed amongst toddler girls’ clothing through the emphasis of Western typically desirable adult physical characteristics, such as cropped tops designed to expose toddler girls' waists. The study was limited to online product images and was further constrained to the inductive codes developed for this particular sample; however, results support the informal observations of many parents, early childhood educators, and clothing industry professionals that toddlers’ clothing is gendered. The unanticipated finding of the sexualisation of toddler girls’ clothing has not been researched before and deserves additional research attention.