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Are Gender Roles Socially Constructed?

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Amber Lee Psych I, Crane February 28, 2003 Are Gender Roles Socially Constructed? The society in which we live plays an enormous role in shaping the different attitudes and behavior of all those who are a part of it. These differences are reflected most strongly perhaps in the development of certain gender-related social roles and behavior traits. Within every society gender is a socially constructed term, and the development of gender roles often begins as early as infancy. Gender is socially constructed to make clear distinctions between the two sexes, and to define their characteristics through gender roles. Culture shapes much of what people consider masculine or feminine (Williams, 1983). In most societies, the "feminine" is usually characterized by delicacy, sensitivity, innocence, compassion, and care for others. The "masculine," however, is characterized by strength, aggressiveness, independence, intelligence, and hard work. A clear representation of this is demonstrated in an experiment conducted by Condry and Condry, in which couples were asked to describe a newborn infant. ...read more.


She has found that young children are segregationists in the way that they seek out same-sex playmates in spite of adult encouragement for group play. Because of gender-role socialization in group play, girls and boys develop in different psychological environments, which shape their perception of the world and contribute to their gender identity. Social learning theorists propose that individuals learn what gender is for themselves through modeling and re-enforcement. With his famous "Bashing Bobo" experiment, Bandura demonstrated that children acquire gender identity and sex-role behavior by direct tuition and observational learning. It can therefore be assumed that television and mass media play a significant role in a child's growing beliefs and attitudes about what it means to be male or female in the world. Researchers find that gender identity is evident in children from as young as 10 months old. However, as evidenced in an experiment done by XX, it does not seem they understand that gender is fixed until the age of 4. ...read more.


Since women are the carriers of babies and have the ability to breastfeed, it is not strange that women should be assigned the role of the caretaker of the home, while men, who are physically stronger, are the protectors and providers (Rossi, 1984). Maccoby (1980) argues that biological factors create behavioral dispositions with different sex hormones. Observations of young male and female rats and monkeys injected with sex hormones reveal that hormones do indeed affect social play. It is a universal characteristic that boys are more physically active and aggressive than girls, while girls engage in activities that require precise motor skills. In conclusion, biological factors do, to some extent, contribute to the development of gender roles and behavior. Psychologist Sandra Bem believes that a healthy society must strive to achieve androgyny. This is important because, in a male-centered society, it is easy to turn biological differences into female disadvantage. Although there seems to be some biological roots for gender development, gender-role stereotypes are still socially constructed and influence development since birth. ...read more.

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