Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory

A set of revision cards to remember the AO1 and AO2 of Kohlberg's theory.



  • To copy same sex models, children must develop sense of gender identity
  • They then understand gender roles.
  • Gender is reliant on nature
  • Three stages of gender development
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Basic Gender Identity

  • 2 to 3 1/2 years old
  • Aware of sex
  • Label boys as boys etc.
  • Believe it can change over time
  • E.g. Boy could have a baby
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Gender Stability

  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2
  • Aware that sex is stable over time
  • Believe it can change over situation
  • McConaghy found that when children were presented with a doll dressed in transparent clothing, children decided sex on clothing
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Gender Consistency

  • 4 1/2 to 7 years upwards
  • Realise sex remains the same
  • Regardless of time or situation
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Sex typed behaviour

  • Must develop necessary mental structure to understand gender
  • Must be in Gender consistency
  • Children will not copy same sex models or learn about gender roles until 7 years old.
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Evidence for nature

  • In Kohlberg's theory gender development should be the same across cultures
  • Should be universal
  • Munroe et al (1984) found children across variety of cultures had same sequences of stages
  • Reliable - can be applied to any child in any culture showing it is purely down to biology
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Evidence for nature

  • Research to support idea that children seek out same sex models at a certain age
  • Slaby and Frey (1975) found that children over the age of 5 paid more attention to same sex models when showed a film than younger children
  • Reliable - Kohlberg stated you have to be in final stage to identify with same sex models and show sex-typed behaviour.
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Evidence against nature

  • Children at a young age (2/3) will play with toys suitable to their sex
  • According to Kohlberg should not start to do this until 4 1/2
  • Stages are not necessarily correct
  • Need to be revised to be appropriate
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Evidence against nature

  • Children's parents encourage sex appropriate behaviours
  • Will also inhibit inappropriate
  • E.g boys to play football, girls to play with dolls
  • Nurture is a key part in a child's development
  • Kohlberg did not consider this
  • Theory is reductionist
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  • Gender development is an interaction of nature and nurture
  • Should not consider them singular
  • E.g nature gives basis for gender, nurture helps further strengthen this
  • Kohlberg's theory has some basis in correct way of gender development
  • Should not be considered as only explanation
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