The Theories Of Sex And Gender

2892 words - 12 pages

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.

Observational learning does not require reinforcement, however new
behaviours are acquired more rapidly if they are reinforced.

Reinforcement of gender appropriate behaviour can take two forms,
direct and indirect, and considerable research has been conducted into
the way parents reinforce their children for this behaviour. FAGOT
(1978, as cited in HARALAMBOS et al, 2002) studied parents at home
with toddlers aged 20-24 months and found girls were encouraged and
praised for activities like dancing, helping with domestic chores and
dressing up. Whereas, boys were praised for more physical activities
and for using construction toys like blocks. This study also found
that boys were often actively discouraged from seeking help and from
playing with “girls” toys such as dolls. It has been found that
children as young as 18 months old have been given reinforcement for
gender appropriate/inappropriate behaviour. CALDERA et al (1989, as
cited in HARALAMBOS et al, 2002)

Research has shown that if mothers have a traditional view of gender
roles and encourage gender-typed play, then children are more likely
to have rigid gender roles themselves. ...

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