The Influence Of Gender Identity And Gender Development

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Gender identity is a private idea on how an individual identifies either as a male or female, some may also identify as both or neither. Gender identity is essentially self-identified, this is resulted by the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, i.e. induced by biological and social factors. Gender identity is a powerful aspect of self-concept that is formed in early childhoods and is very resistant to change in most adults, (Lips, 2001: 54).

Gender identity steadily develops in levels with age. It has been shown that from as early as 9-12 months, children have the capability to distinguish people by gender, they react to pictures of faces of males and females differently, (Brooks-Gunn, J., & Lewis, M. 1979). By 2 years of age, children
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The social learning theory of gender development understands that parents, media and culture act as socialising agents – as they explicitly teach children the significance of gender appropriate behaviour. Parents contribute towards gender development as they positively reinforce (reward) children when a gender-appropriate act is carried out therefore increasing the likelihood of that specific behaviour being repeated again (Lewis, 1975). Stereotyped gender behaviour is outwardly expressed in media and this creates a guide for appropriate behaviours, children learn and observe these through vicarious reinforcement (Gunter, 1986). Culture also influence gender mannerisms and also portray gender stereotypes, for example, western societies acquire a stereotypical concept which believes that men are aggressive and competitive whereas women and expressive and cooperative. Therefore, it can be argued that gender identity is not inherent but in fact it is manipulated by social and cultural environments, (Argosy University,…show more content…
One problem with the biological approach in explaining gender identity is that it is very deterministic. All behaviours are assumed to be innate and out of conscious control and the influence of free will is disregarded. Thus, the biological explanation lacks external reliability. The biological explanation has also been heavily critiqued by Durkin (1995), who highlighted that if sex differences are due to biological factors, they would be evident before social understandings begin. Children do not acknowledge sex differences until they have reached the social stage, this is primarily due to style of parent’s rearing practices which impacts how the child chooses to identify in terms of gender. The theory therefore should consider other factors before settling on a fixed concept.

There are also limitations regarding the social explanations for gender identity. One problem with this particular theory is that it is a reductionist approach. The social theory does not think about the influence of biological factors and only focus on the impact if situational factors as it fails to provide a holistic view on gender identity, this results in the social theory lacking in internal validity. Also, psychological critics have debated that the social theory does not explain learning styles and processes can change with
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