Gender Role Development

The first theorist we discussed as far as gender development is Sandra Bem. Bem defined what it means to be androgynous. An androgynous personality stems from scoring above a 4.9 in both the masculine and feminine categories of Bem’s sex role inventory. When an individual achieves these scores, it means that they have both feminine and masculine psychological qualities. Being androgynous can be a positive thing because it can result in higher confidence and adaptability since both genders have useful psychological attributes.

The next theorist we discussed is one that we looked at previously when we were studying the social learning theory, Albert Bandura. Bandura believes that children learn a lot of what they do by watching those around them and imitating this behavior. This is especially true when it comes to gender roles because children often refer to what others of their gender are doing to know what they should do to be perceived as normal. I think that this ties into Bem’s Gender Schema Theory, which focuses on the child acknowledging their gender and using what they know about how people in their gender react to respond to certain stimuli. Both of these theories concentrate on children’s tendency to do what they see around them and adhere to stereotypes from a young age.

Kohlberg’s cognitive development theory gives insight into how children view gender at different ages. The first stage is gender identity, which lasts from ages three to four. This stage requires children to be in Piaget’s pre-operational stage and during this stage, children are able to differentiate between the two genders and label people as male or female, but they do not yet realize that gender does not change. They come to realize that gender is permanent during the gender stability age from ages four to six. To grasp this concept children must be between the pre-operational and concrete operational stages. The final stage is gender constancy, which lasts from age six to seven. During this stage, children are able to realize that even if a male dresses in female clothes or a female dresses in male clothes, their gender remains the same. Children must be in the concrete operational stage to come to this understanding.

This video shows the stereotypes that children develop at such a young age and the negative impact they can have on them. It also outlines Kohlberg’s theory of cognitive development by demonstrating the children’s knowledge of gender and whether or not it can change.

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