Discuss Kohlbergs theory of Gender Development

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Discuss Kohlberg’s theory of Gender Development (8 + 16 marks)

Kohlberg’s theory is based on the cognitive approach which focuses on the development of cognition to explain the development of gender. Kohlberg’s theory states that gender develops along with the development of cognition with age. From this theory he came up with 3 stages of gender development. These are Gender Labelling, Gender Stability and Gender Consistency. Gender Labelling is acquired between the ages of 1.5-2 years and consists of the child being able to label their own gender and judge the gender of others by appearance, for example and individual with long hair would be labelled female, regardless of genital features. The next stage Gender Stability is acquired between the ages of 3-5. Although at this stage children still base their judgement of gender on external features, at this stage children now understand that gender is a fixed trait and that does not change over time. For example children understand that boys grow up to be men and girls grow up to be woman. The final stage known as Gender Consistency is acquired between the ages of 6 and 7. At this final stage children come to the realisation that gender is permanent despite external changes. For example children can identify a male wearing a pink dress as still male. Once Gender Consistency has been acquired, children begin to understand and practise beliefs and values of both their sex and the opposite sex. Kohlberg believed that children who have acquired gender consistency begin the process known as self-socialisation. This process involves children desiring to behave in a way that is expected of them due to their gender for example, a boy wanting to play football. Furthermore, Kohlberg believes that in order for the children to learn these values, children at the stage of gender consistency begin to pay more attention to same sex models.
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Support for Kohlberg’s theory on gender development comes from research carried out by Slaby and Frey (1975) who investigated 2-5 years old children. They separated the participants into groups by age and interviewed each group in order to find evidence of the 3 stages. When interviewing and carrying out other activities with the children they found evidence of the 3 stages, for example when showing the group 5 year olds a film of a woman and man talking they found that the boys payed more attention to the male and the girls payed more attention to the female. ...

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