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Chapter 13: Gender & Development
• Gender is often the first thing told to parents, and one of the first things we notice about others – very
• Social Roles: Cultural guidelines for people’s behaviour. Gender Roles: Behaviours considered
appropriate for males and females. Gender Stereotypes: Beliefs about how males and females differ in
personality traits, interests, and behaviour.
How Do We View Men & Women?
• Male-associated traits tend to be instrumental, describing individuals who act on the world and
influence it. This includes independent, competitive, aggressive, outgoing, and ambitious. These traits
tend to be more valued.
• Female-associated traits tend to be expressive, describing emotional functioning and individuals who
value interpersonal relationships. This includes kind, creative, considerate, and gentle.
• Considerable cultural variation for each trait – over 90% of people in North America consider men
aggressive, but much lower in Nigeria. American’s gender stereotypes tend to be more extreme than
• Stereotypes limit expectations, respond to males and females solely on the basis of gender, not as
• Men are more likely to rate themselves as “above average” on academic and mathematical ability, as
well as on competitiveness and emotional health. This impacts women’s self-esteem and self-concept.
Learning Gender Stereotypes
• At 12 months, boys and girls look equally at gender-stereotyped toys – boys just as interested in human
o At 18 months, girls look longer at pictures of dolls, while boys look longer at pictures of trucks.
However, it takes longer to notice differences in gender-stereotyped activities – at 2 years, look
longer at counter-stereotypic activities, such as men putting on lipstick than gender-stereotypic or
• By age 4, knowledge of gender-stereotyped activities extensive. They believe girls play hopscotch while
boys play football, girls help bake cookies while boys take out the garbage, etc.
• Younger children believe that gender-stereotyped traits would emerge regardless of rearing
environment – boy babies born on a deserted island and brought up by women. By 9 to 10 years, see
gender-typing as more socially influenced and think that other-sex rearing would produce far less
• Addition of gender-stereotyped personality traits in elementary school.
o Asked if 16 stereotypically masculine and 16 stereotypically feminine traits were more typical of
boys or girls. At 5, boys and girls judged 1/3 of traits the way adults would, but 90% by age 11
• Learn that traits and occupations associated with males tend to have higher social status, e.g.
lawyers and engineers over social workers and flight attendants. For unfamiliar jobs, such as candle-
making, children rate this as more prestigious if picture is of a male chandler than a female chandler.
• In Russia, most doctors are female and the occupation is seen as less high-status than in North
America, more as a “caring” profession than a “scientific” profession.
• As children develop, they begin to understand that gender stereotypes do not always apply – see
stereotypes as general guidelines and not binding for all boys and girls. In fact, older children consider
gender stereotypes less binding than many social conventions and moral rules, due to cognitive
development of flexibility Page 433-458, 25 pages Page 2 of 8
• Girls tend to be more flexible about stereotypes, perhaps because they see male-stereotyped traits
as more attractive. It is much more acceptable to be a tomboy than a “sissy”. They are more eclectic in
choices of toys that may be deemed to be stereotyped for boys.
• Adolescents from middle-class homes tend to have more flexible ideas about gender than lower-class
homes, perhaps due to education imparting less rigid views
DIFFERENCES RELATED TO GENDER
• Eleanor Maccoby: The Psychology of Sex Differences found psychological differences between the
sexes are neither obvious nor universal. Categorized studies on gender differences according to
behaviour studied and ages of children, then compared results.
• Gender differences established in only 4 areas: girls have greater verbal ability, boys have greater math
and visual-spatial ability, and boys are more aggressive. Did not find support for ideas that girls are more
social and suggestible, have lower self-esteem, are less analytic, or lack achievement motivation.
Differences in Physical Development & Behaviour
• Differences in the reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics certainly differentiate boys
and girls. Boys are usually larger and stronger, so they often physically outperform girls; however, on
tasks that involve fine-motor coordination, girls tend to do better.
• For gross-motor skills such as running and throwing, body composition is less important – rather,
experience is crucial. Boys tend to have more experience with these activities since culture and parents
believe sports are more valuable for boys than girls. Girls spending less time in sports removes
opportunity to practice those motor skills.
• Boys tend to be more active than girls in infancy, with difference increasing in childhood, engaging in
more rough-and-tumble play. Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
• Girls tend to be healthier, with female embryos more likely to survive and less prone to birth
complications and later diseases. This is probably because of the Y chromosome having less genes.
• Boys are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as drinking alcohol, reckless activity, and
Differences in Intellectual Abilities & Achievement
• Girls have larger vocabularies than boys, and are more talkative. They tend to read, write, and spell
better than boys. More boys are diagnosed with problems such as reading disability or language
• The left hemisphere central to language may mature more rapidly in girls.
• Mothers talk more to daughters than sons, increasing experience and exposure to language.
• By elementary school, reading is often stereotyped as an activity for girls
• Mental Rotation: The ability to imagine how
an object will look after it has been moved in
space. Tasks often ask which figure is a
correctly rotated version of the original figure.
Boys do better.
• Some evidence this occurs in infancy: 4 month old boys
recognize a stimulus previously shown in various orientations
(upright, upside down, 90 degrees), at a novel orientation (45°),
but girls did not Page 433-458, 25 pages Page 3 of 8
• Spatial Memory: The ability to remember the position of objects in the environment including
determining relations between objects while ignoring distracting information; females often perform
• Tested with object array, looking at an array for one minute and then a second array is presented with
the same objects but some in exchanged positions.
• Dual Mechanism for spatial navigation: Male Euclidian method with direction and distance, and female
topographical method with placement and landmarks.
• This may have evolved due to different skills needed in hunter-gatherer societies, with men as hunters
needing spatial skill for successful navigation and calculating trajectories for weapons. Women would use
topographical methods to find gathering spots.
• The right hemisphere may be more specialized for spatial processing in males than females, perhaps
because boys mature more slowly than girls: innate differences, found from the earliest stages of
• Experience contributes: boys more likely to participate in activities that foster spatial skill, such as in
sports assembling scale models, and in playing video games. In lower SES homes, boys and girls have
comparable spatial skills perhaps due to lack of training in these activities
• Standardized tests in elementary and middle schools emphasize computation, and girls perform
better. In high school and university, math emphasizes solving problems and applying concepts, and
boys do better.
• This difference persists even when boys and girls take equal number of math courses, and is cross-
• However, girls tend to score higher grades in math courses, even in university. This discrepancy may
be explained by stereotype threat.
• Stereotype Stratification: The process of cognitively viewing oneself as a member of a subgroup to
which the stereotype does not apply. Stereotypes about math ability may thus be stratified – girls view
the stereotype of males being better at math only for adult men and women, but not for children. Thus,
younger girls may achieve equally in the classroom but as they become women, the stratified stereotype
hinders their progress.
• Exposure to counterstereotypic models such as events, speakers, and demonstrations for girls to
expose them to women scientists and engineers help combat gender stereotypes.
• Gaps in math and science have narrowed substantially, and use of average scores do not give a
complete description of ability differences.
• Spatial ability may contribute, as some aspects of math are easier to understand when visualized.
• Cultural inequalities correlate with male-female differences in math – math gender gap disappears in
more gender-equal cultures, but the reading gender gap may become bigger.
Differences in Personality & Social Behaviour
• Boys are more physically aggressive than girls, from as young as 17 months. In virtually all cultures,
and in nonhuman species, males are more aggressive likely due to biological differences.
• Androgens: Hormones secreted by the testes, have been linked to aggression, making males more
excitable or easily angered, and physically stronger
• Media is filled with aggressive male models who are rewarded for their behaviour. Parents are also
more likely to use physical punishment with sons than daughters, and are more tolerant of aggressive
behaviour in sons and directed towards sons. This may socialize boys to the use of aggression.
• Animal studies show the importance of experience. Baboons live in troops with a hierarchy structure
dominated by males, and organized by the use of aggression. In one troop, all the dominant and most Page 433-458, 25 pages Page 4 of8
aggressive males died from a tuberculosis outbreak. The remaining less aggressive males were able to
reproduce, and the troop had a more relaxed behaviour pattern. This remained even after new
adolescent animals joined the group, with a peaceful culture persisting 10 years after the outbreak.
• Girls are also aggressive, but in more indirect, relational methods.
• Girls may be better able to express their emotions and interpret others’ emotions. Throughout
childhood, girls identify facial expressions more accurately and are more emphatic in their interactions.
• On the nature side, regions of the brain’s temporal lobe that process emotional expression develop
more rapidly in girls. On the nurture side, parents are more feeling-oriented with daughters, more likely to
label and explain emotions to girls than boys, such as when reading books – for boys, focus on
• Stereotype that girls are more easily influenced by others, persuadable and compliant. This has been
affirmed by research, particularly when they are under group pressure.
• This may be because females value group harmony more than males, and thus seem to give in to
others. Girls may be as likely to recognize the flaws in a bad idea in a group project, but are more willing
to go along with it because they don’t want to provoke conflict.
• Depression is more common among teenage girls than boys. It is often triggered when adolescents
experience a negative event and interpret this event negatively, leading to chronic sadness and low self-
• Girls experience more frequent stressors such as dissatisfaction with their appearance or conflict with
close friends. Girls are more apt to interpret these negative events in harmful terms, emphasizing social-
emotional consequences to a far greater extent than boys do.
• Boys may be underdiagnosed because it is less socially acceptable for boys to admit to depression, or
may show symptoms differently, becoming irritable rather than withdrawn
• Few consistent connections between depression and levels of hormones
Frank Talk about Gender Differences
• Gender differences described here reflect differences in average scores, and these differences are
small. Overall, the distributions of scores in an activity such as reading have much more overlap than
differences. There is much more variation within each gender than between.
• Differences in average reading scores does not mean that girls read well and boys read poorly!
• Gender Identity: The perception of oneself as either male or female.
The Socializing Influences of People & the Media
• Social Learning Theory (Bandura): Children learn gender roles in much the same ways that they
learn other social behaviours, by watching the world around them and learning the outcomes of actions.
They see gender-appropriate behaviour modelled and rewarded.
• Parents often treat sons and daughters similarly: interact equally, equally warm, an