Slides in this set
Cognitive developmental theory
Suggests ideas on gender change with age.
Gender is the way someone acts and identifies
themselves the behavioural characteristics
that make a person masculine or feminine.
Cognitive developmental theory was first
proposed by Piaget. It suggested that children's
thoughts and views on the world change as
Many theories use Piaget's ideas to explain
how ideas about gender change with age.…read more
Gender consistency, Kohlberg
Kohlberg's (1966) theory of gender consistency is part of his wider
cognitive developmental theory. It identifies three stages; Gender
identity, gender stability and gender consistency.
Gender identity the child is aware that they're male or female, but
think their gender might change. This stage usually occurs between
the ages of 2 and 3 ½ years old.
Gender stability the child realises that their gender will remain fixed
over time. However they may think that gender can change in
different situations. This stage usually occurs between the ages of 3
½ and 4 ½ .
Gender consistency the child is aware that gender remains fixed in
different situations. This usually occurs between the ages of 4 ½ and
Kohlberg (1966) evaluation
There is some evidence for Kohlberg's theory. For example,
McConaghy's (1979) study showed that children in Kohlberg's
gender stability stage determined the gender of dolls by their
clothing rather than their genitals. This suggests they believe
that when the situation changes, gender does too.
Munroe et al's (1984) study found the same stages in children
from different cultures.
However, Kohlberg's theory has been criticised for ignoring the
effects of social influences and conditioning. Also, it describes
what happens, but doesn't explain why.…read more
Gender schema theory Martin and Halverson (1981)
Martin and Halverson's gender schema theory combines cognitive
developmental theory and social learning theory to suggest how
gender stereotyping helps children learn what is and what isn't
appropriate for their gender.
It proposes that, by the age of 3, children have developed a basic
gender identity. They also have a gender schema which contains the
child's ideas about gender appropriate behaviour.
Through observation, children continue to learn gander appropriate
behaviours and add them to their schema.
A child's gender schema is based on the concept of an in-group and
Activities, objects and behaviours associated with their own sex are
seen as in-group and those associated with the opposite sex are
seen as out-group. Through reference to their in-group/out-group
schema, children will show a bias towards in-group behaviours.…read more
Martin and Halverson (1981) evaluation
Having a gender schema can help children to manage all the
information that they're exposed to. They can focus on processing
information related to their in-group and filter out information related
to their out-group.
However, there are also disadvantages reinforcing stereotypical
gender roles can discourage children from showing interest in things
related to their out-group. This can limit their opportunities and lead to
There is some evidence to support gender schema theory. For
example, Bradbard et al (1986) gave children unfamiliar toys and
found they were more likely to play with them (and remember them) if
they were described as being for their own gender rather than the
As children get older they are capable of more complex cognition and
understand that their gender doesn't limit them rigidly to in-group
objects and behaviours.…read more