Gender Schema Theory

  • Created by: Emma
  • Created on: 22-10-15 19:49

Gender Schema Theory Background

What is a schema?

A mental representation of an aspect of the world. It's a cluster of related items that together present a concept.

The term stereotype is often used instead of schema. However schema involves more than a stereotype being more complex and generating inferences and expectations.

Gender Schema Theory (GST)
Martin and Halverson propose two key features that differentiate their theory from Kohlberg's.
First they argue that the process of acquiring gender-relevant information happens before gender consistency/ constancy is achieved. Claim that gender labelling is sufficient for a child to identify him/herself as boy/girl and take an interest in what behaviours are appropriate which Kohlberg claimed didn't happen until after gender constancy was achieved.
Second, suggest how acquisition of schema affects later behaviour esp. in terms of memory and attention

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Gender Schema Theory A01

Children learn schema related to gender from their interactions with other children and adults, as well as from TV programmes or videos. Such schemas have the function of organising and structuring other information that is presented to children e.g. learn about appropriate toys for gender. Therefore schema's are naive (persona rather than scientific) theores about appropriate behaviour for men and women.

Ingroup and outgroup:
Ingroup refers to groups which a person identifies e.g. being a girl means you identify yourself withh that group, positively evaluate your own group and negatively evalutate the outgroup.
Motivates a child to be like their group and avoid behaviours of the outgroup and to acquire ingroup schemas before gender constancy.

Resilience of gender beliefs:
Explain power of gender beliefs--> lead children to hold very fixed gender attitudes because they ignore any information they encounter that is not consistent with ingroup information e.g. male nurse, female fireman. Won't alter existing schema

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Gender Schema Theory A02 (1)

Research Support
Gender Stereotypes without constancy- Martin and Little found that children under the age of 4 showed no signs of gender stability let alone signs of constancy but did display strong gender stereotypes. Showing they have acquired information about gender roles before Kohlberg suggested

Effect on memory- Martin and Halverson found that when children were asked to recall pictures, those under 6 recalled more gender-consistent ones (e.g. female nurse) than gender-inconsistent ones. Pay attention to ingroup schema. Furthermore children appear to pay greatest attention to ingroup rather than outgroup schema. Bradbard et al told 4 to 9 year olds that certain gender neutral items were boy or girl items--> took greater interest in ingroup ones, a week later remembered more

Gender Schema's may distort information: Martin and Halverson distorted pictures so gender inconsistent became gender consistent

Resilience of children's stereotypes: Highly sexist--> seek gender appropriate schema, mothers that work have less stereotyped views--> receptive to some gender inconsistent.

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Gender Schema Theory IDA

Real World Application:

Gender schemas lead to misremembering or even distorting information has important implications for efforts to reduce gender stereotypes. It means that even when children are exposed to counter stereotypes they don't remember them accurately. This suggests that the use of counter-stereotypes may not be the best way to reduce children's gender schema

The Freudian Approach:

Proposed that around 3 a boy becomes sexually aware and attracted to his mother making him wish his father dead so he can have his mother all to himself. Such issues make the boy feel guilty but are ultimately resolved through gender identification with his father. If conflict not resolved boy could have gender identity problems

Interesting to note there are some similarities between GST and Freud, Freud's critical age is closer to GST than Kohlberg's and Freud suggested that identifcation with the ingroup was important in taking on gender attitudes.

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