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Outline and Evaluate 2 Cognitive Developmental Explanations of Gender Development

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Outline and Evaluate 2 Cognitive Developmental Explanations of Gender Development There are two cognitive explanations of gender development. These theories share the view that the child's thinking and understanding of their gender identity as boys or girls is what leads to the adoption of gender role behaviours. Kohlberg's cognitive developmental theory (1966) argued that the child develops an understanding of gender in three stages and it is only after the child has fully understood that gender is constant, at around age 5, that they show gender role behaviour. Martin and Halverson's gender schema theory (1981) agrees with the cognitive nature of gender development, but argues that children develop schemas about gender and gender role behaviours earlier than Kohlberg suggested. According to Kohlberg (1966), the child's understanding of their own gender identity forms the basis of their enactment of gender role behaviours. Kohlberg argued that the child's understanding of gender develops gradually through three stages which are loosely linked to age across early childhood. ...read more.


They were shown a silent film in which two adult models - one male and one female carried out simple stereotyped gender role activity such as baking a cake or changing a wheel. The film was constructed using a split-screen model so the child could watch both films and their eye movement and direction of gaze were recorded to assess which film they looked at most. Slaby and Frey found that the child who had reached high levels of gender constancy spent more time watching the same-sex model than those who had low levels of gender constancy, supporting Kohlberg's claim that children pay attention to same-sex models after the stage of constancy has been reached. In a more realistic study, Ruble (1981) considered the relationship between gender constancy and the child's responsiveness to television adverts for 'girl' and 'boy' toys. Children who had reached their gender constancy were sensitive to the implicit message of the advert that certain toys were 'right or wrong' for boys or girls. ...read more.


Therefore children look to the environment to develop and build their gender schemas, which become progressively more complex. So toys, from being neutral, become categorised as boys' or girls' toys; games, sports, school lessons, even musical instruments are categorised as 'right' for girls or boys. Poulin-Dubois et al. (2002) studied a group of 63 Canadian toddlers aged two to three years. They were asked to choose a doll to carry out a series of tasks which were classed as male (shaving), female (vacuuming) and neutral (sleeping). Girls aged 24 months chose the gender-appropriate doll for the tasks while girls did not, implying that girls as young as two had identified their gender stereotypes. Boys were around 31 months old before they demonstrated similar stereotypes. This study shows that young children between two and three years old select and pay attention to models on the basis of their sex. Both of these cognitive theories I have discussed see the child as active, seeking out information about gender and trying to make sense of the gendered world they live in. In both of these theories, the direction of development goes from cognitive concept (i.e. ...read more.

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Applications of these theories can be added to this essay - how is this useful in the real world? The essay considers with some reflection on the contribution of two theories - perhaps it could supply a little more detail on the sampling and conclusions to be drawn. 4*

Marked by teacher Stephanie Duckworth 16/07/2013

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