Individual Differences in the Development of Gendered Speech in Preschool Children: Evidence From a Longitudinal Study

Benjamin Munson, Natasha Lackas, Kiana Koeppe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We evaluated whether naive listeners’ ratings of the gender typicality of the speech of children assigned male at birth (AMAB) and children assigned female at birth (AFAB) were different at two time points: one at which children were 2.5–3.5 years old and one when they were 4.5–5.5 years old. We also examined whether measures of speech, language, and inhibitory control predicted developmental changes in these ratings. Method: A group of adults (N = 80) rated single-word productions of 55 AMAB and 55 AFAB children on a continuous scale from “definitely a boy” to “definitely a girl.” Children’s productions were taken from previous longitudinal study of phonological development and vocabulary growth. As part of that study, children completed a battery of standardized and nonstandardized tests at both time points. Results: Listener ratings for AMAB and AFAB children were significantly different at both time points. The difference was larger at the later time point, and this was due entirely to changes in the ratings of AMAB children’s speech. A measure of language production and a measure of inhibitory control predicted developmental changes in these ratings, albeit only weakly, and not in a consistent direction. Conclusions: The gender typicality of AMAB and AFAB children’s speech is perceptibly different for children as young as 2.5 years old. Developmental changes in perceived gender typicality are driven by changes in the speech of AMAB children. The learning of gendered speech is not constrained or facilitated by overall speech and language skill.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1330
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by NIH grant R01 DC02932 to Jan Edwards (lead PI), Munson (MPI), and Mary E. Beckman (MPI) and by a University of Minnesota Undergraduate Opportunities Research Program grant to Kiana Koeppe. We thank Alayo Tripp, Erin Durban, Kerry Ebert,

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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