Outline and evaluate Kohlberg's theory of gender development

A 24 mark essay on Kohlberg's theory of gender development.

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Outline and evaluate Kohlberg's theory
of gender development
Kohlberg believed that the development of gender was influenced purely by a person's nature (their
genes) and so believed that everybody's identification of gender should occur in the same way. He
then proposed three stages of gender development and stated that unless a person had undertaken
these stages then they could not begin to copy same sex models or fully understand their gender.
The first stage he believed children underwent was basic gender identity. He said this occurred when
a child was 2 to 3½ years old and was when they begun to understand what sex they were.
However, he said that children thought sex could change over time and so a girl could easily believe
she could be a man one day.
The second stage is gender stability which occurs when a child is 3½ to 4½ years old. At this stage
children understand sex is stable over time. However, they still believe that is can change over
situation. For example, if they saw a man in a dress they would believe he was now a woman.
The final stage is gender consistency which takes place between the ages of 4½ to 7 years old.
Children now begin to understand that sex always remains the same over time and situation. It is
after this that a child begins to understand and copy same sex models and therefore display sex
typed behaviour.
Kohlberg's theory claims gender development is driven entirely by nature and genes. Evidence in
favour of this was proposed by Munroe who found that in different cultures around the world
children were in similar stages at similar times suggesting that it is a human's biological make-up that
influences gender, not their upbringing as gender is the same universally meaning Kohlberg's theory
can be generalised across cultures.
Another piece of evidence for nature is that only older children can identify with and begin to copy
same sex models. This was provided by Slaby and Frey who found that children aged over 5 paid
more attention to same sex models when showed a film than younger children. This supports
Kohlberg's idea that children must be in the final stage of gender development before they would
even tell the difference between sexes and display sex-typed behaviour.
However, there is evidence against nature as children as young as 2-3 have been shown to play with
sex appropriate toys. According to Kohlberg they should not start to do this until they are over 4½.
Therefore this evidence suggests that the timing of the stages is incorrect and to be accurate, need
to be revised.
Also, Kohlberg's theory does not take into account the influence of parents and their encouragement
of sex-typed behaviour. For example, parents will encourage a boy to play football and a girl to play
with dolls, therefore influencing their gender development, something Kohlberg did not consider
and claimed it was purely genetics. This mean the theory is biologically reductionist.
In conclusion, gender should not be considered as purely developed by nature or nurture as the two
are not independent of each other. Instead they interact together with nature providing the essential

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Therefore although
Kohlberg's theory of gender development has some basis of the correct way gender is developed, it
should not be considered purely as an explanation.…read more


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