ED209 revision: gender identity and the development of gender roles

Gender identity and the development of gender roles is a very structured chapter which has a number of quite disctinct sections each with their own crop of researchers.

Concepts include gender itself which is generally considered as pertaining to the social characteristics whilst sex is used for biological characteristics although both terms are used pretty much interchangeably by many researchers in the field. Moving on we have gender identity (the persons sense of being male or female), gender role, gender stereotype and gender typed (people conforming to their gender roles). As always, there are wide cultural variations with, as usual, Papua New Guinea turning up many peculiarities such as tribes where everyone is stereotypically female or male.

Research methods are complicated as, for example, Bem’s Sex Role Inventory is mainly for adults whilst toy sorting methods are geared to younger children.

There are loads of different approaches to looking at the field:

  • Psychoanalyitical perspectives (Freud: Oedipus Complex, Gilligan: early childhood)
  • Social Learning processes (Mischel: conditioning, Maccoby & Jacklin: nothing [but only looked at mothers], Lytton & Rommney and Langlois & Downs: it’s the fathers that do it, Bandura: learned by observation & imitation)
  • Cognitive processes
  • Social cognitive theory (Bandura: person, behaviour and environment active role, Bussey & Bandura: self-regulation develops with age: younger kids only disapproved of others breaking stereotype)
  • Cognitive development theory (Kohlberg: gender labelling, gender stability, gender constancy cf Piaget’s conservation). Overall not very strong evidence.
  • Gender schema theory (Martin & Halverston: stereotyping simply used to simplify the information processing). Main difference from Kohlberg is that it happens from the labelling stage

An integration of gender development considers the relative emphasis between social factors and cognition. Whilst both are important there seems to be a reciprocal relationship between social experience and gender conceptions ie more social experience leads to lower gender stereotyping thus girls don’t do it as much as boys due to their generally greater social experience (Banerjee & Linton).

Finally, putting gender in context there are the areas of play interaction & friendship (Benenson: boys have more but shorter play interactions than girls, Lansford & Parker: girls relationships are characterised by more intimacy and self-disclosure) and academic development (Stipek & Gralinski: boys attribute success to ability, failure to luck whilst girls attribute failure to low ability). Teacher feedback in boys concentrates on misbehaviour and lack of motivation whilst in girls concentrates on lack of ability (Dweck et al).

Aside from the sheer number of researchers mentioned, this isn’t a bad chapter to revise and since identity generally comes up it’s probably a worthwhile one to look at. Anyway, ’tis on to national identities next.

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