Gender Schema Theory

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  • Created by: Beth_Gee
  • Created on: 22-04-14 11:37

Gender Schema Theory

Bem (1981) and Martin and Halverson(1981) propose that a child’s begins to form a gender schema as soon as they notice that people are organised into categories of male and female ARROW make distinction at 18 months.

Martin and Halverson (1981) describe two types of sex-related schemas;

·         In-group

·         Out-group

General information about m/f categories – behaviour, objects, particular traits or roles being m/f.

Doll = girl

Train = boy

‘Own sex schema’ more specific and personal version consisting of objects beh, traits and roles appropriate to their own sex.

‘I am a girl: A doll is for me’

Develops because children have a tendency to group info and form rules to help them make sense of the complex world around them. --> help them to understand where they fit in

--> establishing self-identity

Development of complex gender schema is more apparent once the child has moed from broad categorisation of people into male and female to placing themselves in one of the cateogories. They recognise that they belong to the ‘in-group’ and not the ‘out-group’.

They also evaluate the ‘in-group’ ans associated behaviours and activites = +ve

Once group established, motivated to learn more about behaviour of both groups. Establish beh consistent with their own group and recognise beh that is not consistent with their group. Helps to aquire info related to their own-sex schema so that this becomes increasingly more elaborate containing sex-appropriate plans of action that direct their beh.

Girl plays with dolls avoiding the train, boys play with trains avoiding the dolls.

What is a schemata?: cognitive structure that contains information about people, events or experiences. It begins as a basic structure and is gradually more complex through the experience as info is evaluated and either  added or rejected.

Schemata influences the selection of info for encoding into memory. Info that is consistent with child’s gender schema becomes important and is therefore remembered better than info that is not. Schemata responsible for inaccuracies in recall, children may remember info that relates to their schema rather than what they initially observed. FOR EXAMPLE: May observe a woman fixing a car which is inconsistent with their gender schema so they remember it as a woman cleaning a  car as this is consistent with their gender schema.

Evaluation of Gender Schema Theory

Martin and Little (1990): supports concept of the acquisition of only basic gender knowledge prior to the understanding of sex stereotypes. Children aged between 2 years 9 months and 5 years and 9 months. NOVEL OBJECTS. Everyday objects e.g garlic press, hole punch and pizza cutter. Labelled them


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