Social identity and prejudice development

Sex differences

Gender determines masculine or feminine behaviour. Sex determines biological and physical attributes. Gender stereotypes: overgeneralisation of a set of characteristics to a whole gender group.

Literature on sex differences is highly controversial i.e contradictory results. Research has examined differences in personality, cognitive differences, and differences in behaviour and activities.

Personality differences: men seen as more active, dominant, aggressive, arrogant, independent, and self-confident. Women seen as more passive, emotional, submissive, fearful, and compliant. Cultural stereotypes?

Cognitive differences: boys supposed to be better than girls at maths and superior spatial abilities. Girls supposed to have better verbal abilities. Stereotypical expectations?

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Gender segregation

Gender differences in toy preference are well-known and appear early (O'Brien & Huston, 1985). Toddlers prefer to look at gender-appropriate toys (Serbin et al, 2001). Boys' interest in stereotyped toys remains consistent. Girls show decreased interest with age (Cherney & London, 2006).

Gender segregation in children's play groupings is evident from 3 years old, maybe earlier with girls. During mid and late childhood, same-sex preference increases (Maccoby & Jacklin, 1987). La Freniere et al (1984) carried out observational studies of affiliative behaviour in a Montreal day-care centre. Children aged between 18 months and 5 and a half years. Showed that percentage of same-sex affiliative acts increased with age.

With the youngest children there is little gender segregation, but by 24 months, girls are already showing gender preference. By 3 years of age, boys shown the same levels of preference.

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Theories of gender role development

Biological: differences are natural and are the outcome of biological factors. We developed through human evolution to make us adaptive to the environment. Males and females developed differently as a function of their respective contributions to reproduction and domestic labour. Hormones: prenatal and pubertal development effects (Hines, 2004). Prenatal = fetal testosterone determines anatomic sex. Puberty = surge in hormone activity. Hines (2006): girls exposed prenatally to androgens show more masculine behaviour.

Social learning theory: gender roles are the product of external pressures in the local environment. Bandura: sex role learning is the outcome of a series of learning experiences within a specific socio-cultural environment. Socialisation agents (parents, media, etc.) convey repetitive messages about appropriate sex roles which the child assimilates. Socialisation process = reinforcement, observational learning (modelling), media propoganda.

Cognitive theory: conceptual understanding increases motivation to seek out information about gender roles in society (observational learning) - Kohlberg (1966). Gender identity: ability to label self and other as either male or female. Gender stability: realisation that a person's sex remains constant throughout life

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Theories pt.2

Gender-schema theory: information processing approach. Children develop schemas or naive theories. Gender identity affects gender attitudes and subsequent behaviours. Gender role schemas alter the ways children process/recall social information, and how they search for information. Martin & Halverson (1983): children shown gender-consistent or gender inconsistent activities (e.g boy playing with a train or girl sawing with wood). 1 week later, children remember inconsistent pictures as gender consistent. Memory codes new information into existing schemas.

Family socialisation: Condry & Condry (1976): showed a group of adults a videotape of a 9 month old infant who was introduced as a boy (David) or a girl (Dana). The child was seen responding to emotion arousing objects. The child's responses were described as either anger if the infant was seen as a boy, or as fear if a girl. Caldera et al (1989): we dress the sexes differently, establish sex-typed physical environments, encourage and reinforce different activities.

Peers and siblings: peer pressure is important in determining gender role development (Maccoby, 1990). Peers are more alert to cross-sex behaviour than parents. Sibling influence - attitudes, behaviour and choices of older siblings predicted those of younger siblings' gender typing (McHale et al, 2001).

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Ethnic identification

Amongst adults, ethnic identity is complex, meaningful, has ramifications for self-esteem, and contributes to who we are as people. Tajfel (1981): the part of an individuals self-concept that derives from his or her knowledge of membership in a social group(s) together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership.

There is relatively little research examining the development of ethnic identities amongst children (Ruble et al, 2004).

Ethnic constancy > gender in 7-9 year old white children (Aboud & Ruble, 1987). Different developmental trajectories depending on ethnicity/race of a child. Ethnic constancy appears later in minority status children. This could be because its less salient in young children's environment, or minority status children are aware of lower status and don't want to identify initially.

Quintana (1988): 4 levels of understanding ethnic identity. Level 1 = racial/ethnic differences physical only, no constancy (3-6 years). Level 2 = racial/ethnic differences in concrete cultural practices e.g food, music, language, countries (6-10 years). Level 3 = recognise broader implications of ethnic group, broader differences e.g status, resources, stereotypes (10-14 years). Level 4 = pride in racial heritage (14+ years).

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Ethnic identification pt.2

Kiang et al (2001): ethnic identity protects 9th grade Mexican and Chinese US children from negative effects of everyday stress. Associations between daily stressful demands and daily levels of happiness correlated with ethnic regard. May be because stronger ethnic identification means stronger social ties, more integration, and feelings of connectedness.

Phinney - ethnic identity in adolescence: stage 1 = unexplored ethnic identity. Stage 2 = ethnic identity search and exploration. Stage 3 = achieved ethnic identity.

Phinney: 4 components of ethnic identity

  • Ethnic behaviours and practices: involvement in social activities with members of one's group and participation in cultural traditions
  • Affirmation and belonging: being happy with one's group, feelings of belonging and attachment
  • Ethnic identity achievement: exploration of the meaning of one's ethnicity
  • Attitude towards other groups: affect towards out-group

Phinney (1992): significant increase in ethnic identity achievement with age, as well as affirmation, belonging, ethnic behaviours and ethnic identity achievement correlated.

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Clark & Clark (1947) created the doll test - presented with identical dolls except for skin colour.

Asher & Allen (early 1960s): black and white American children aged between 3-8 years old. Preference for lighter-coloured puppet in both groups. Peaked at 5-6 years old and then declined. In black children, when asked which was the "nice puppet" 75% preferred the white puppet. When asked which puppet looks bad, 75% preferred the black puppet. Levels were the same for white children, with a slightly higher preference for the black puppet in the "looks bad" condition.

Where do these prejudices originate and how are they acquired by young children?

Social reflection theory: children learn prejudices through direct socialisation (e.g the parents). However, children's views are not invariably direct copies of those held by their parents or other social agents. Explicit ethnic prejudice tends to decline from early-mid childhood.

Cognitive developmental theory (Aboud, 1988): changes in cognitive maturity drive the process of prejudice development. Children are cognitively immature and rely on either perceptual or social categories to make sense of the world. Only with cognitive development do children begin to process multiple categories and appreciate the internal qualities of an individual.

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