Discuss explanations of the development of gender identity and / or gender roles

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Discuss explanations of the development of gender identity and / or gender roles

The first explanation into the development of gender identity is the Social Learning Theory or Social Cognitive Theory, developed by Bandura (1991). Bandura suggested that gender identity, or roles, develop through several modes of influence, principally modelling, enactive experience and direct tuition. Bandura demonstrated modelling through the Bobo doll experiment where young children copied aggressive behaviour, particularly when the modeller was the same sex as the child. This suggests children copy same sex models in everyday life and thereby learn what’s considered appropriate behaviour from the behaviour of those around them. This may be reinforced or inhibited through enactive experience where the child’s actions are ‘rewarded’ or ‘punished’ by people’s reactions. This is also shown through peers, as a child may see them getting rewarded or punished for something and therefore model their behaviour on that outcome. People can also model their behaviour on gender roles shown in the media, which affects their self-efficacy. Additionally, the principle of self-efficacy suggests that we learn what is possible for our own gender through seeing others succeed or fail. Therefore we are more likely to engage in behaviour that we’ve seen our own gender succeed in.

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Perry and Bussey (1979) support modelling by showing that children copied the fruit choices of same sex models but this was limited by existing stereotypes e.g. men don’t wear dresses. However, fruit choice is a trivial example and it is not clear that one modelling session had long-term effects. Furthermore the failure to overturn stereotypes might suggest that complex schemas are in operation, which the theory doesn’t allow for. Another criticism is that research has also shown that children do not always model their behaviour on a same-sex model. This is strengthened by Barkley et al’s study. They found that ...

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Quality of writing: No criticism here, all the spelling and grammar are good. Additionally technical terms such as ‘enactive experience’ and ‘modelling’ are defined and used successfully. Star rating: 4 (I think this could easily be a 5 with a few of the improvements suggested)

Level of Analysis: A great deal of critical analysis was provided – with both points to support the theories and also dispute them. For example evidence is provided by Perry and Bussey but then this evidence is criticised for being too focussed on trivial examples and short-term effects. This is good as it shows the reader that the writer has considered both sides of the argument in an unbiased manner – something that is necessary for successful scientific research. To improve the analysis I would suggest a sentence to explain what each of the studies provided involved (this has been done towards the end of the essay e.g.” Martin and Halverson (1983) who found that when children under six were asked to recall pictures of people” but not consistently). I think this would add a bit more context to the analysis and therefore allow the reader to decide how useful/relevant/supportive the evidence is.

Response to Question: All in all, this answers the question very well – a balanced amount of description and evaluation is given. This means the reader is able to understand not only the background information of the theories, but also the strengths and limitations of them. The theories of Social Learning and Gender Schemas are comprehensively covered with a large paragraph describing each. Then both are evaluated clearly and separately for example “Perry and Bussey (1979) support modelling by showing that children copied the fruit choices of same sex models” and then “This theory also holds implications in society such as how T.V programmes showing stereotypical gender roles could affect a person’s self-efficacy.” My only criticism of the overall response is that I would’ve liked to see a clear conclusion at the end to sum-up the whole essay (this could simply be a couple sentences reinforcing the main points already made and possibly saying which explanation is better). A conclusion ensures that the reader knows what the main point/’decision’ of the essay was – the essay title says ‘discuss’ so the examiners are looking for evidence for and against a theory and then a decision as to how good it is.