Kohlbergs Theory of Gender Development

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Cognitive developmental theories of gender dvelopment
Kohlberg's Gender Consistency theory of gender development
Kohlberg identified three stages to the development of gender:
Gender identity:
This happens between the ages of 2 and 3. The child recognises that he/she is a boy or a girl.
Gender Stability:
This occurs between the ages of 3 and 7. The child becomes aware that gender is fixed. They accept
that males will remain males and females will stay females.
Gender consistency:
This occurs between the ages of 7 and 12 years of age. Children recognise that superficial changes in
appearance or activities do not alter in gender. Even when girls wear jeans or a football top, or when
a boy has long hair, the child's gender remains constant.
Supporting evidence:
Wainraub et al. (1984) showed that children who had mastered gender identity made more
sex stereotyped toy preferences than children who had not acquired gender identity. Once
children viewed themselves as a boy or girl, they would behave in ways that they thought
individuals of that sex should behave. This was an observational study of 2-3 year old
McConaghy (1979) found that children aged between 3 and 4 did use hair length to judge
whether a doll was male or female.
Ruble et al (1981) did an observation of pre-schoolers, either with high gender consistency
or low gender consistency. The children watched TV ads where toys were gender
stereotyped. They found a greater effect on those with high gender consistency.
Universal sequence of development:
Cross cultural research provides us with an opportunity to determine aspects of behaviour that are
specific to a particular culture or are universal.
Munroe et al. (1984) suggested the sequence of development of gender is similar across
cultures. Cross culturally biological development is similar, lending credibility to claims that
cognitive mutation is more important than different social experiences in gender
Conflicting evidence:
Martin and Little (1990) suggested that Kohlberg was wrong in suggesting that children do
not begin collecting information about appropriate gender role behaviour before they
achieve consistency. They measured gender concepts, sex-typed preferences and

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Cognitive developmental theories of gender dvelopment
stereotyped knowledge in 3 to 5 year olds. Gender concept measures included the ability
to identify and to separate the sexes, understand group membership and gender
consistency over situational changes. They found that pre-school children only had basic
gender understanding, yet they had strong gender stereotypes about what girls and boys
were allowed to do.
Ages and Stages:
There is some disagreement about the actual age when these changes take place, although
the sequence isn't contested.…read more


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