Outline and Evaluate 2 Cognitive Developmental Explanations of Gender Development

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Outline and Evaluate 2 Cognitive Developmental Explanations of Gender Development

There are two cognitive explanations of gender development. These theories share the view that the child’s thinking and understanding of their gender identity as boys or girls is what leads to the adoption of gender role behaviours. Kohlberg’s cognitive developmental theory (1966) argued that the child develops an understanding of gender in three stages and it is only after the child has fully understood that gender is constant, at around age 5, that they show gender role behaviour. Martin and Halverson’s gender schema theory (1981) agrees with the cognitive nature of gender development, but argues that children develop schemas about gender and gender role behaviours earlier than Kohlberg suggested.

According to Kohlberg (1966), the child’s understanding of their own gender identity forms the basis of their enactment of gender role behaviours. Kohlberg argued that the child’s understanding of gender develops gradually through three stages which are loosely linked to age across early childhood. In each of these stages, the child grasps increasingly more complex concepts about the nature of gender.

Gender Identity: the first and most simple concept the child has to gasp relates to their own sex – that of a girl or boy. Between the age of about two and three-and-a-half, the young child starts to use the label ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ to refer to themselves and then to other people.

Gender Stability: when the child reaches the age of about three-and-a-half they begin to realise that their own sex will not change.

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Gender Consistency: between four-and-a-half and seven years of age, the child works out that gender is constant – that is, that people stay the same gender despite superficial changes in their appearance.

Kohlberg argued that once a child understands that their gender is constant, they become highly motivated to behave in a way that is expected of them as a boy or a girl. Therefore, this theory predicts that children should pay attention to same-sex role models and show systematic gender role behaviours only after they have a full understanding of their gender and a strong sense that it is ...

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Applications of these theories can be added to this essay - how is this useful in the real world? The essay considers with some reflection on the contribution of two theories - perhaps it could supply a little more detail on the sampling and conclusions to be drawn. 4*