Describe and Evaluate the Learning Explanation for Gender Development

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Describe how the learning approach can be used to explain gender development

The learning approach suggests that gender is a result of Nurture i.e. it is learned from the environment and is not fixed at birth.

One way in which we learn behaviour is through operant conditioning. A young child will behave in various different ways, some behaviour will be noticed by adults and reinforced if they think that is desirable and some behaviours will be punished if they feel that it is undesirable.  As the child grows up other role models will influence and reinforce desirable gender behaviour and punish undesirable behaviour.

An example of this can be seen through a young child that is dressing up. A young girl who dresses up as a fairy will be praised and told that she looks pretty, whereas if a boy was who was dressed up as a fairy he would be laughed at (punishment). Over time consistent reinforcement and punishment shapes the behaviour of the child so that the girl continues to dress up as a fairy, but the boy does not.

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Another way we learn behaviour is social learning. This involves observing a role model, remembering what you observe and imitating it in a similar situation. A role model is similar to us (same sex) but has status (an adult) so for most children their same-sex parents and same-sebrothers and sisters will be role models. Imitation is particularly likely if children observe their role models being rewarded – this is vicarious reinforcement.

An example would be a boy seeing his older brother fight bullies and getting praised by his father for “standing up for himself”. This is negative reinforcement (the bullying ...

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