Apparent sex differences in cooperation-competition: A function of individualism

George P. Knight, Spencer Kagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Of the studies investigating sex differences among Anglo-American children, some have found boys more competitive than girls, whereas others have found the opposite or no differences. Analysis of previous cooperation-competition (C-C) studies, however, reveals that in many studies either the cooperative or the competitive alternative has been confounded with individualism (i.e., offers own-gain maximization) and that the sex differences in observed C-C vary systematically as a function of individualism. To test the hypothesis that sex differences in individualism can account for the apparently contradictory finding regarding sex differences in C-C, 80 3rd-5th graders (42 girls, 38 boys) made 24 choices on 4 choice cards that systematically varied with respect to individualism. As predicted, girls were more individualistic than boys and appeared more cooperative in situations in which individualism and cooperation were confounded, but girls were more competitive than boys when individualism and competition were confounded. Results point to the conclusion that the apparent contradictions found in studies of sex differences in C-C among children are due to the confounding effects of individualism. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-790
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 1981


  • individualism, cooperation-competition, male vs female 3rd-5th graders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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