Gender associations and musical instruments: Understanding the responses of nursery-aged children

Nigel A. Marshall, Kagari Shibazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Society remains gender-differentiated, and the development of inappropriate stereotypical attitudes appears to be one factor preventing many individuals from achieving their true potential. A significant level of attention has been given to challenging inappropriate stereotypes in older children. However, previous research suggests that many gender stereotypes already exist by the age of three. Therefore, it could be the case that wellestablished stereotypes are being challenged too late and in inappropriate ways, due to a lack of understanding as to how experiences impact on complex development.
Purpose: This small-scale, in-depth study explored the links which nursery children made between the sound of a musical instrument and notions of gender. More specifically, the research focused on the thought process whereby that link is made.
Methodology: A total of 83 children from five nurseries in England participated in a bespoke activity in which they were played a series of musical excerpts and asked to attribute these to a cartoon image. Recorded data were transcribed and a three-level qualitative analysis was carried out, using a ‘ways of power’ conceptual framework.
Findings: Our analysis suggested that the children’s decisions were influenced by a number of ‘ways of power’, regardless of whether they had ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ knowledge of the instrument. Even the youngest children seemed able to draw on a wide range of experiences that enabled them to construct a range of meanings about themselves, gender and the roles they play in the various contexts in which they live.
Conclusions: The study draws attention to how very young children are able to reason, evaluate and think in complex ways which go well beyond simply adopting and enacting the attitudes of those around them. Schools, and nurseries in particular, should be fully aware of the level of thought that young children appear to bring to the experiences they gain on a daily basis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-473
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Research
Issue number4
Early online date27 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Gender associations and musical instruments: Understanding the responses of nursery-aged children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this