ED209 - Child Development - Gender Identity and the development of gender roles

ED209 - Child Development - Gender Identity and the development of gender roles

  • Created by: Nadine
  • Created on: 23-09-11 12:38


Gender stereotypes - long history, remained constant (assertive = masculine, sensitive = feminine)

WILLIAMS & BEST - stereotypes exist in all cultures.  Similarities and variations.

To what extent do gender differences exist? brain structure or evolution.

MACCOBY & JACKLIN - very little differences identified, greater differences beween sexes than within.

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Key Concepts

SEX = Biological characteristics

GENDER = Social characteristics

Researchers do interchange

  • Gender Identity - person'r sense of gender, usual including biological sex.
  • Gender Role - Attributes, behaviour and attitutes
  • Gender stereotypes - widely held beliefs
  • Gender-typed - person who conforms to gender.

Similarities and differences culturally

MEAD - New Guinea study, both males and females were stereotyped however not in the western way (eg. masculine women and feminine men)

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Key Research Methods

Masculine and Feminine, 2 extremes of same dimension in early research.

BEM - Sex Role Inventory - scored masculine and feminine seperately, high score on both was androgynous

Now more multidimensional approach has emerged.

Much research on child done on toy preferences - observation and parental reports.  Started with child being asked whether something is male or female.  Sex Role Learning Inventory (SERLI) - allowed children to say that something was neither.

Different methods used.  Sex Role Inventory appropriate for adults but not children for example.

Observation may not indicate usual preferences so needs to be appropriate methods.  Picture sorting is a method.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Psychoanalytic

Psychoanalytic Perspectives

FREUD - Oedipus complex - posses mother - fear father - identify with father.

CHODOROW - Feminist View - Both identify with mother young as she is carer.  Boys unlike girls need to seperate from mother to develop masculinity and shun feminity.

GILLIGAN - different processes of identity, differences in moral understanding, girls focus on needs and desires of others.

+ve - All link gender role early in families and importance in childhood

-ve - Little support for FREUD, can't be tested.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Social Learning

Social Learning Processes

MISCHEL - Gender stereotype aquired through conditioning - children rewarded for gender-consistance and punished if not.  Gender learnt through observation.

RUBIN - Gender influenced how newborns are described.

LAMB - Fathers play differently with boys and girls.

MACCOBY & JACKLIN - found little variation in treatment of boys and girls, only focusing on mother's behaviour

LYTTON & ROMNEY - only significance was gender-typed activity, particually by fathers However different variations would be seen such as competitiveness in boys and nurture in girls.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Social Learning

LANGLOIS & DOWNS - Investigate gender-appropriate and gender-inappropriate behaviour.  Fathers tended to only praise gender-appropriate play.  Complex findings because mothers acted differently.

BANDURA - behaviour learnt through observation and immitation Vicarious Learning.

PERRY & BUSSEY - observation of multiple models was particually effective.


  • Methodological problems, experiment isn't real-life, can't find causes.
  • Media culprit for gender stereotype or do children choose.
  • Doesn't explain how development takes place, why does it change as kids age.
  • Not enough emphasis on cognitive proce** and child as active in development.
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Approaches to Gender Development - Cognitive Proce

Cognitive Processes - Social Cognitive Theory

BANDURA - Builds on SLT, 3 kinds of variables, each influence each other.

                           BEHAVIOUR    PERSON   ENVIRONMENT

Highlights active role of child in shaping own development

  • Attend selectively
  • Reherse observed behaviours
  • Decide when to enact
  • Monitor Outcomes

Strong evidence for modelling within family and wider culture.  Adult response motivates.  Once behaviour internalised child can now direct.

BUSSEY & BANDURA - supports SCT.  Self-regulation develops with age. gender-inconsistentance worse for older children.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Cognitive Proce

Cognitive Processes - Cognitive Developmental Theory

Children's concept of themselves, more important than SCT suggests.

KOHLBERG - Child self-socialised - 'I am boy so do boy things', seaks out gender information.

KOHLBERG - Gender Identity - Builds in stages

  • Gender Labelling - At 3yo child able to identify gender of self and others but not stable.
  • Gender Stability - Now stable but appearence and activity isn't.
  • Gender Consistancy - By 6/7yo understand permanence of gender, critical stage in gender-typing process.

Similarities to PIAGET's development of conservation.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Cognitive Proce

+ve - Some support, structured interviews.  SLABY & FREY - support, children with gender stability paid more attention to model of own gender, particulaly boys.

-ve - Evidence not very strong overall, most evidence points to gender-labelling which is earliest part of sequence.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Cognitive Proce

Cognitive Processes - Gender Schema Theory

Argued earlier cognitive processes are crucial

MARTIN & HALVERSON - Gender-stereotyping normal result of info processing, schema is way of simplifying large amounts of info.  2 Schemas:

  • In/group/out-group schema - Categories of activities that are suitable for one's own gender and the others
  • 'own sex' schema - more detailed info of what is right for ones self.

Unlike KOHLBERG's theory this one suggests that once children can label themselves a gender they can self-regulate.

Explains why gender-stereotypes are so hard to alter.

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Approaches to Gender Development - Cognitive Proce

BRADBARD et al - Children 4-9yo more interested in unfamiliar toy labelled for their sex than those that weren't.

LIBEN & SIGNORELLA - Primary school children remembered more gender-consistant pictures than those that weren't.

MARTIN & HALVERSON - Children 5-6yo mis-remembered gender-inconsistant pictures.

Sometimes younger children have stronger stereotypes than older.

MARTIN - When child asked what character they would liek to play, the child relied on gender info to choose.

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Gender Development - An Integration

Key variation in theories - emphais placed on environment vs child's cognitive ability.  Clear both are important and reciprocal influence between social and understanding.  Girl's more flexible than boys.

BANERJEE & LINTON - Girl's understand counter-stereotypical reasoning better than boys.  Boys act more masculine in front of other boys.

Linked to SLT - BUSSEY & BANDURA - sanctions for boys and girls are different.

BANERJEE & LINTON - found an age effect, younger child more ridgid than older, suggests schemas similar for both but gender and role more salient for boys due to social experience.

Individual differences in gender development.

LEVY & CARTER - some child took longer to choose toy from boy-boy toy pairs than girl-boy toy pairs.  Speed of choice links to salience and social experience.

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Gender in Context - Play Interaction & Friendship

Play Interaction & Friendship

MACCOBY - same-sex peer groups develop particular kinds of interactions based on gender.

Support by BENENSON et al - Perhaps linked to importance of interpersonal communication in feminine gender role.  Boys seen as more competitive wen in groups of 4 or more.

Boys - more rough and tumble and larger groups.

THORNE - Boy's talk more competitive

BLATCHFORD et al - Boys more likely ball games and fantasy play.  Girl's like to talk and sedentary play.  Can be linked to traits.

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Gender in Context - Play Interaction & Friendship

Girl's friendships more intimate & self-disclosed -

  • BUHRMESTER - Self report data
  • LANSFORD & PARKER - Observational Studies.

Care taken not to generalise as considerable individual differences

Future Research - investigate when and why children do or don't conform.  Could shed light on theories.

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Gender in Context - Academic Development

Academic Development

Gender differences in expectations, motivation & performance.  Possibly down to social context.

LUMMIS & STEVENSON - Mothers rated boys better at Maths than girls even though no evidence found.

STIPEK & GRALINSKI - Girls expected to do wrse in maths test than boys - success to ability, Failure to luck. Girls - failure to low ability.

DWECK et al - Teachers focus on boys misbehaviour and lack of motivation, Girls just lack of ability.

Important because choices made in school affect career implications.  Hard to recruit women for science and maths roles - may be down to negative cognition.  Future studies would need to look at this.

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Other Themes


  • Reciprocal influence of social and cognitive.  Contexts of school and play are important.  Later career choice a future thought.


  • Use of experimental method and use of correlations.


  • Social Learning Process, gender identity possible through interaction with peers and parents and possible parent expectations. 


  • Social Cognitive Theory takes transactional models
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