Behaviourism argues gender differences are learnt through process of conditioning and social learning.
According to the social learning theory, the development of gender differences occurs as a result of child's social experiences.
Operant and Classical conditioning
Through OC, children learn to behave in ways rewarded by others & avoid behaving in ways that are punished = DIRECTION TUITION
Societies expectation of the behaviour of boys and girls produces operation of socially delivered rewards and punishments = gender appropiate behaviours.
Likely both parents and peers can affect gender behaviour; boys being rewarded with praise for playing with boys toys, punished for playing with girls toys through a negative reaction.
Also likely peers influence gender behaviour when children with other children; if young boy plays with girls dolls, boys make fun out of/isolate him. If involved in boys physical play, rewarded through friendship/admiration.
Through CC, children learn to associte being boy&girl with certain things; girls showing emotions & boys fighting.
Bandura children can learn gender stereotypes by observing actions of various models of same gender; children, parents, teachers = OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING.
In many families parents still have traditional roles; mothers doing cooking/washing, father doing manual tasks.
Mothers> show more emotions at home & are more nurturing
Fathers> may be more physical
Children learn to imitate these patterns.
It has been suggested that observational learning in gender stereotypes in children depends on the media (TV). TV often shows males and females portrayed in stereotyped ways and magazines reinforce stereotyped interests.
Research Supports- peers also reinforce gender typical behaviour. FAGOT studied behaviour of children ages between 12 & 21 months. Boys made fun of boys who played with dolls & girls did not like girls who played with boys.
Studies have supported that parents do reinforce gender typical behaviour in children. e.g. SMITH& LLOYD observed mothers playing with an infant presented (clothes&name) as boy or girl. The mother selected gender appropiate toys (dolll,girl..squeeky hammer,boy) & responded +actively when boy showed increased motor activity. Thus gender stereotyped behaviours were reinforced.
Support for role of parental reinforcement- FAGOT& LEINBACH carried out a long-term study of children. Parents encouraged gender appropiate behaviour & discouraged gender inappropiate behaviour in children before age of 2 (girls rewarded for playing with dolls, boys for climbing trees). SEARS found most consistent & greatest difference was allowance in aggression> boys allowed, girls discouraged. Boys allowed to express more aggression to parents.
HOWEVER, there are gender differences in Parental Reinforcement. Cross-gender activity is far more discouraged in boys than in girls (ok for girl to be defined 'tom-boy', uncomfortable with boy playing with dolls). Girls therefore have greater flexibility in cross-gender play than boys. The responses to cross-gender activity are also different in mother&fathers. Fathers responses to boys who engage in typical girls play more negative than mother.
Alpha-gender bias- exaggerates differences between genders, when actually much similarity in treatment. A meta-analysis revealed B&G received equal parental warmth, encouragement of achievement, discipline & amount of interaction. Research which exaggerates differences can raise socially sensitive issues as they lead to stereotyping & discrimination.
Purely social theories are reductionist. They reduce complex behaviour to differential rewards & ignores biological influences. It is likely both biological & social factors lead to gender differences. Biology can cause slight differences between sexes which parents respond to differently, reinforcing gender differences. Some argue differential treatment not cause, but response to differences. Biological approach would argue this causes sexes to be different, parents responding to natural differences.