Parents can help their children avoid a common pattern of gender bias and underlying messages of dominant male power and status by weeding such attitudes from their own speech, a Utah State University researcher says.

A recent study conducted by the Logan school found gender-based traits of boys initiating and directing conversations and girls sustaining topics was present in groups of preschoolers, third- and sixth-graders.Although the characteristic has long been recognized by linguists, it was surprising to see how young the patterns emerged, said Ann Austin, USU College of Family Life early childhood developmental specialist.

It is possible that gender-linked messages of power and status are conveyed even by preschool children, she said.

"Notice the conversations at adult parties you attend, or your own dinner table conversation," Austin said. "You will likely find that most of the conversation topics are determined by the men, while it is the women who augment or embellish the topics."