Gender Identity

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The development of gender awareness is fundamental for our sense of self and is also predominant in any assessment made of another person as from birth on people respond differently to males and females. Gender identity can be seen as one of the earliest social categories that children learn to apply to both themselves and other people. This is suggested in Schaffer’s (1996) definition where gender identity is the correct labelling of self and others as male or female. There are three main theories that have been explored which all suggest multiple ways in which gender awareness is developed: Bandura, Kohlburg and the Gender Scheme Theory. Firstly, Bandura (1977) notes that the idea that social influences clearly plays a very significant role in the development of gender identity. Socialization makes children aware that there are differences between male and female, and that these sex differences matter. These social pressures also suggest there are specific gender stereotypes that they are expected to conform to. Nevertheless, it can also be seen that biological and cultural changes interact with these social factors, thus defining how an individual eventually develops the gender identity of a man or a woman. An alternative theory, expressed by Kohlburg (1966), suggests that children are not the recipients of any physical information from social experiences and therefore they search for specific regulations which will explain the way in which males and females are expected to behave. In addition, gender tends to be the first thing a parent wishes to find about their child. It can be suggested that from then on the child will be treated depending on the fact that they are male or female. This is shown in research attempting to cla...

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... both masculine and feminine toys. Generally, parents gave positive responses to their pre-school children when they chose same-sex toys but negatively to cross-sex toys, thereby reinforcing their children’s sex role differentiation. On the other hand, according to Fagot (1985), sex-differentiation like that viewed in the previous study was not found in the teachers in charge of a group of 2 year olds. In this study, it was the children themselves who gave their peers engaging in sex-appropriate behaviour positive feedback of one kind or another. Again, boys were more likely to be disapproved of for ‘girly’ behaviour and were thus quickly given the chance of learning what is not male and so encouraging them to drop those behaviours or activities in their repertoire.

Nevertheless, there are criticisms of these ‘social influence theories’ on sex role development.

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