The Theories of Sex and Gender

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The Theories of Sex and Gender

Sex and gender are two very separate factors in the debate of how

gender acquisition occurs. Sex is a biological fact determined by

the chromosomes inherited from parents. Gender however, refers to

the behaviour, beliefs, attitude and sense of identity that society

perceives as being appropriate for either a male or a female, and

therefore gender is regarded as a social fact. MOGHADDAM (1998, as

cited in HARALAMBOS et al, 2002).

There are four main theories in the gender acquisition debate,

Evolutionary Psychology, Psychoanalytical Theory, Social Learning

Theory and Cognitive-development Theory. This paper aims to describe

and evaluate Social Learning Theory and Cognitive-development Theory.

Social Learning theorists believe the development of gender occurs as

a result of a child’s social experience and think much of this

learning can be explained by conditioning and observational

learning. Sex-role and gender behaviours are learned in the same way

as any other behaviour. In terms of conditioning, parents socialise

their children, preparing them for adult gender roles by providing

them with gender-appropriate toys. In many societies girls are given

dolls and cooking equipment in preparation for the maternal and

domestic aspects of their adult gender role. BANDURA & WALTERS (1963,

as cited in HARALAMBOS et al, 2002) Social Learning theorists also

think that children learn gender roles from same sex role models such

as parents, peers, teachers and media figures who provide children

with opportunities to observe and imitate behaviours, this is known as

observational learning.


... middle of paper ...

...r cognitive

and motivational factors. This new theory, Social Cognitive Theory,

suggests that a child has it’s own ability to regulate his/her own

activities according to the rules of gender appropriate behaviour.

This combines Social Learning Theory with Cognitive Development Theory

and shows a move from parental control over this process to an

understanding that children actively evaluate situations and adapt

their behaviour accordingly. This more recent theory aims to broaden

and combine earlier approaches and to develop them further.

Reference List


Cardwell.M, Clark.L, Meldrum.C (2000) Psychology for A Level London

Harper Collins

Haralambos.M, Rice.D, Foreman.N, Jones.S, Stenner.P, Brown.S,

Kinderman.P, Sharp.K (2002) Psychology in Focus for A Level Lancashire

Causeway Press
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