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child dev ch 15

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PSYC 304
Marjorie Rabio

sChapter 15: Gender Role Development and Sex Differences Sex Differentiation: the biological process through which physical differences between sexes emerge. Gender Role (sex-role stereotype): a pattern or set of behaviours considered appropriate for males or females within a particular culture. Sex Typing: the process by which children develop the behaviours and attitudes considered appropriate for their gender. 1) Theories of Gender-Role Development and Sex Differences A) Evolutionary and Biological Approaches a) Evolutionary Approaches One way in which the reproductive roles of males and females differ is in the relative investment each makes to parenting and to mating. For females, each copulation brings with it the possibility of conception and 9 months of pregnancy; thus, females have a large potential investment in each copulation. Males on the other hand, need to invest little more than sperm and the energy required for copulation. So, females have evolved to be choosier about their mates whereas males evolved to focus their efforts largely on mating. Studies show similar behaviour patterns among the females and males of many nonhuman species. Higher rates of aggression and dominance displayed by boys are seen as preparation for adult male competition over mates. Girls greater inhibitory control reflects the challenges they will face in choosing mates and caring for young, demanding infants. Evolutionary theorists believe that intrinsic, inborn differences between the sexes gives rise to and maintain gender roles. b) Psychobiological Approach During the prenatal period, fetal hormones guide the development of male or female reproductive organs and external genitals. Hormone levels can be influenced by innumerable environmental factors, such as outside temperature, immunological reactions and maternal stress. B) Sociocultural Approaches Gender roles develop as children participate in and prepare for the adult roles they are expected to play in their communities. The gender roles of girls and boys parallel those of the adults around them and exert a powerful influence on how children spend their time, with whom and where. Sociocultural theorists contend that sex differences observed among children and adults are caused by the roles commonly held by females versus males. C) Cognitive-Developmental Approaches Childs increasing knowledge of and ability to implement gender roles. Gender script : refers to a cognitive representation of a familiar routine or activity that is usually only associated with one gender a) Kohlbergs Stage Model Kohlberg believed that children construct their gender identity from what they see and hear around them. This gender identity serves to organize and regulate childrens gender learning and behaviour. Gender constancy: the belief that ones own gender is fixed and irreversible. Gender constancy (which is usually fully developed by age 6) develops in 3 stages: 1) Gender Identity: the ability to categorize oneself as male or female 2) Gender Stability: the awareness that all boys grow up to be men and all girls become women 3) Gender consistency: the recognition that an individuals gender remains the same despite changes in dress, hairstyle, activities or personality. Cross-cultural studies confirm that children progress through these stages, in this order. Studies have not supported Kohlbergs idea that gender constancy precedes childrens adherence to gender norms; studies report that children show gender-typed toy preference, emulate same-sex models and reward peers for gender-appropriate behaviour years before they understand that gender is a permanent, unchanging attribute. b) Gender Schema Theory Gender Schemas: cognitive representations of the characteristics associated with being either male or female. Children categorize gender-relevant stimuli (people, toys, etc) as for girls or for boys. Gender schemas result from 2 factors: 1) the childs inborn tendency to organize and classify information from the environment 2) the preponderance of gender-distinguishing cues (clothing, names, etc) that make these concepts easily identifiable. Self-schema: the gender schema that the child adopts (girl or boy). This self-schema affects the child in 2 ways: 1) it prompts the child to pay greater attention to information relevant to his or her own gender 2) it influences the childs self-regulated behaviour (ex: choosing to take ballet or karate lessons) Children begin to organize their experience and behave in ways compatible with gender norms once they can identify themselves as male or female, an achievement typically reached between the ages of 2 and 3. There is evidence that young children do use gender as a means to categorize their world and that knowledge of gender categories influences childrens processing of information. Some children develop idiosyncratic gender schemas: gender schemas that include dimensions more typically associated with the opposite sex (ex: tomboy). D) Environmental/Learning Approaches Social-learning theorists view gender roles as primarily learned patterns of behaviour that are acquired through experience. Many sex-typed behaviours are products of learning principles, including reinforcement, observational learning and self-regulation. By learning to anticipate how others will respond to their behaviour, they gradually internalize standards regarding what are appropriate and inappropriate gender behaviours and then self-regulate their behaviour to conform to these standards. Sex-typed behaviours are not fixed and are susceptible to change. 2) Some Perceived and Real Sex Differences Studies sometimes yield conflicting results. To help make sense of discrepant results, researchers employ meta-analysis. Meta-analysis: a method of reviewing the research literature on a given topic that uses statistical procedures to establish the existence and size of effects. Since it examines multiple studies, the number of subjects is increased and there can be more definitive inferences. In general, the average differences between males and females are actually smaller than the variability within each sex. A) Physical Differences a) Physical Maturity and Vulnerability At birth, the female newborn is generally healthier and more developmentally advanced than the male despite being somewhat smaller and lighter. Although she is much less muscular and somewhat more sensitive to pain, she is better coordinated neurologically and physically. On average, girls reach developmental milestones earlier than males (ex: st puberty, losing 1 tooth). Males are physically more vulnerable: they are more likely to be miscarried, to suffer from physical and mental illnesses as well as various kinds of hereditary abnormalities, and to die in infancy. b) Activity Level Typically, boys have higher activity levels than girls; boys are more active even in the womb!
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