Gender Differences in Preschoolers’ Help-Eliciting Communication

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Genetic Psychology


PRESCHOOL children, HELP-seeking behavior, SEX differences (Biology)


Gender differences in help-eliciting communication and the relationship of such utterances with ability were explored. A sample of 71 preschoolers (38 boys, 33 girls; mean age 4 years 3 months) were videotaped as they solved a difficult puzzle. Spontaneous talk was analyzed for orientation (to whom or to what an utterance referred) and for the frequency of utterances coded as help eliciting. Significant main effects for gender were observed, with more frequent help-eliciting utterances (HEUs) made by the girls than by the boys, particularly HEUs about themselves (self-disclosing). Although the girls' HEUs were not predictive of ability on the puzzle, the boys' were. No gender differences in puzzle-solving ability were observed. Findings are discussed with regard to problem solving and social/linguistic development.