Abstract

This paper chronicles the game preferences of American children during the twentieth century, documenting the results from four studies between 1898 and 1998. These studies are used to compare the popularity of particular activities (e.g., hopscotch, baseball) and types of activities (e.g., board games, games of individual skill) by gender over a one-hundred-year period. With this longitudinal, multistudy comparison, it is revealed that the game preferences of boys and girls have become markedly more similar. This pattern of increased play preference convergence throughout the twentieth century suggests an erosion of gender-determined institutionalized norms related to games. The dominance of electronic games and organized sport in the most recent of the four surveys not only reflects the technological advances of American society; it also indicates an increased desire for games that demand greater skill and promote role specialization.

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