Outline and evaluate two explanations of the development of gender roles

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Outline and evaluate two explanations of the development of gender roles

A gender role is a set of expectations that prescribe how male and female should behave, think, act and feel. The argument is that why children behave in order of their gender. Is it our parents, peers causing us to behave in that way or it just develop through cognitive process?  

This could be explained by the Social learning theory and the cognitive development theory. These two theories are quite different to each other as social learning theory is focused on the people around us affect our behaviour and the cognitive which gives the idea that as we grow up we learn the concepts of our gender.

Social learning theory gives us an idea of how gender is learned through direct and indirect reinforcement. It suggests that our parents do have influence on our gender role. Children learn gender appropriate and gender behaviour through reward and punishment. Parents may encourage their children to behave according to their gender. For e.g. if the parents say ‘you look prettier in that skirt than jeans’ to their daughter, then this could have an effect on their daughter as she may like to wear skirt instead of jeans just because she got nice comment from her mum. This is known as direct reinforcement. Parents tell their children how they should behave as a girl and boy, giving a gender role to their children.

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We also learn gender appropriate behaviour by just seeing other being rewarded and punished for their feminine or masculine activity. This is known as indirect reinforcement. Media is an example of indirect reinforcement. Media shows the two different gender role (male and female) in a different way. And it has influence on children who are acquiring their gender concepts. Media shows girl behaving in a famine behaviour and boy in a masculine behaviour. It shows a girl wearing skirts and woman washing up in the kitchen while the man presented as an independent going to the work or office.


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