Cognitive Developmental Theory: Kohlberg
- focus= how childrens thinking develops in stages
- gender identity= percieved as outcome of children actively structuring own experiences
- regards thinking and understanding as basis behind gender identity/ gender role behaviour
- most important factor= child's level of cognitive functioning (see conservation)
- childs discovery that male/ female causes them to identify with own sex
- Kohlberg believed stages= universal= any difference in male and femal behaviour- due to cultural differences in what is percieved as masculine/ femanine
- based on work of Piaget
- As children develop their cognitive understanding- awareness that things stay same despite appearance (called Conservation)- once they understand conservation in objects- can understand a person's appearance does not change their sex
- can classify and understand gender/ pay more attention to same gender role models and internalise their behaviour as they find it rewarding (self socialisation- children reinforce themselves) Gender identity is the cause of internalising gender behaviours rather than effect
Kohlberg's Three Stages of Gender Development
Gender labelling/ identity- aged 2-3.5 years- awareness of gender but believes it can change
Gender stability- 3.5-4.5years- awareness that their gender is stable over time but not over situations eg. dress/ hairstyle
Gender constancy- 6years- realise that sex remains the same, regardless of time or situation. Actively seek role models and imitate and internalise their behaviour
Debate to Evaluate the Cognitive Developmental The
Reductionist: the theory concentrates on cognitive factors and may overlook important cultural and social influences, such as parents and friends
Free will: your own thoughts and understanding cause gender development. However, not entirely free will as the stages of gender development are fixed.
Approaches to Evaluate the Cognitive Developmental
Part of the cognitive approach: claims beliefs and internal thoughts cause gender and creates a staged model.
Contrasts the Social Learning Approach: states gender identity is outcome of children actively structuring their experiences, not a passive outcome of social learning. Believes children get their gender identity and then seek role models (opposite to social learning theory).
Research Evidence: Slaby and Frey
Aim: whether children with higher gender constancy pay more selective attention to same sex role models
Procedure: fifty five children- aged 2-5years old- gender constancy assessed by questions- rated high or low gender constancy- weeks later- watched a short film of male on one half of a screen and woman on other half carrying out gender stereotypical activities- measured the time eyes were fixated on each half of the screen
Findings: higher gender constancy boys watched the male more- less so for lower gender constancy boys- selective attention stronger on high constancy boys than girls- both boys and girls spent more time watching the male
Conclusions: children with higher levels of gender constancy show more selective attention to same sex models than those with low gender constancy- supports the idea that it is gender identity which preceeds identification with same sex models- however girls dont support- gender bias
Research Evidence: McConaghy, Munroe et al and Bem
McConaghy: children aged 3-5years shown dolls in transparent clothes- chose gender in terms of clothes despite contrasting genitals were clearly visable- supports children in gender stability do not know gender is fixed- make decisions on superficial features
Munroe, Shimmin and Munroe: cross cultural evidence of same sequence of stages in different countries (Kenya, Nepal, Belize and Samoa)- supports gender identity is a result of cognitive maturation process rather than result of social experiences
Bem: believes that children have awareness of gender specific behaviours from around two years- due to development of gender schemas- contradicts Kohlberg as it suggests we have internalised gender type behaviour before gender constancy- goes against Kohlberg's stages
Methodological Issues and Contradictory Points
Methodological Issues: most evidence- points to idea children follow stages- disagreement as to when- may be explained by the research methods used- when children shown drawings of gender inappropriate changes being made- not able to realise that gender remains same (Emmerlich et al)- however- shown real pictures of children fist nude and then in gender inappropriate clothing- almost 50% of 3-5year olds knew gender had not changed (Bem)
Contradictory Points: Kohlberg's theory predicts little or no gender specific behaviour before children acquire gender constancy- but even in infancy- boys and girls show preferences for stereotypical male and female toys- children generally demonstrate gender appropriate behaviour and reward gender appropriate behaviours in peers- before they have reached gender constancy- casts doubt on Kohlberg's ideas of universal stages of development.
Huston and Gender Bias
Huston: Kohlberg's theory- leads to prediction- of a close relationships between beliefs about gender and gender typed attitudes and behaviour- relationship isn't strong- weaker in girls than boys- meaning what they believe about gender roles is not necessarily reflected in behaviour
Gender bias (androcentrism): theory is more applicable to boys than girls- girls do not show same strength of relationship between gender constancy and gender typed behaviour. Gilligan- claims that famale participants of Kohlberg's study were judged using a male standard due to the gender bias of Kohlberg's original research- which was solely based on studying men.