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Outline and evaluate two or more explanations of the development of gender identity and/or gender roles

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Outline and evaluate two or more explanations of the development of gender identity and/or gender roles The social learning theory (SLT) explanation of gender would suggest that gender identity and roles are learnt behaviours, rather than innate. It would explain the development of gender identity and roles as being somewhat intertwined; that is, they are both learnt through similar processes. The processes through which this gender behaviour is learnt are direct tuition, modelling and vicarious reinforcement. Direct tuition is carrying out behaviours that are rewarded and avoiding behaviours that are punished, and it is likely that children who act in a gender-appropriate manner are likely to receive rewards for it ("who's a big boy?" or "that's my princess", for example), whereas those who act in a gender-inappropriate manner are likely to be punished. This is supported by Fagot & Leinbach, who found in their longitudinal study that parents rewarded gender-appropriate behaviour and discouraged gender-inappropriate behaviour, and furthermore that the parents that used more direct tuition had children with more gender stereotyped attitudes. ...read more.


a parent, who has lived with the child its whole life). Finally, vicarious reinforcement occurs when a person observes someone else carrying out a behaviour and being rewarded or punished for it. Therefore, gender may be vicariously reinforced by observing other people be rewarded or punished for gender-appropriate or gender-inappropriate behaviour respectively. This has applications to the media in particular, in that advertisements and shows may depict boys as being very traditionally masculine (e.g. the Hulk) and girls as being traditionally feminine (e.g. Barbie). This is supported by Williams, who found a significant increase in gender stereotyping after a television channel was introduced to a town in Canada than before. A major criticism of SLT is that it depicts the child as being a passive entity who is a product of their social interactions. This is contested by Kohlberg, who put forward a cognitive-developmental theory (CDT), which contrasts with SLT in that it argues that gender identity is developed before attention to same-sex models is possible (whereas SLT has the opposite causal direction). ...read more.


Indeed, Kohlberg's theory would imply that the relationship between cognitions about gender and gender-stereotyped behaviour is very close, whereas Huston found that the relationship is not very strong, and is weaker among girls than boys. Both SLT and CDT are reductionist in that they largely ignore biological factors in the development of gender identity and roles. The biosocial theory of gender development argues that basic biological and hormonal factors are important in the development of gender identity; that is, boys may identify with other boys because they are similar in appearance and in behaviour; and these appearances and behaviours are themselves results of their genes and hormones. Although this introduces the role of biological factors in gender identity, the theory is highly biologically reductionist, completely ignoring the role of social stimuli on gender development. It may be better to investigate both biological and social factors, for example conduct a study whereby a person who is biologically male is raised as female (although this raises significant ethical concerns). Clive Newstead ...read more.

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