Parents play the role of nurturing their children and preparing them for society, and somewhere in between they have unintentionally introduced their children to gender stereotyping (beliefs and behaviors acceptable for girls and boys). As children grow they start to learn gender typing on their own through biological and environmental influences. Then through observation children develop their own identity towards male or female, and they start to organize their experiences through gender schemas.
This is how children start to interpret what’s happening in their world. Piaget’s cognitive development theory and Bandura’s social learning theory explain how children learn through modeling and actively constructing knowledge as they manipulate and explore the world. So, parents should try to reduce or delay gender stereotyping to allow their children the opportunity to learn without restrictions. Before children can fully understand their own gender, they have been subtly introduced to society’s views of what is correct for beliefs and behaviors for boys and girls.
By 18 months they can associate things with men, but they are still unsure of association with woman; this changes between 24-30 months because now they understand and use words that categorize male and female. Then by preschool, children start to associate items, toys, clothing, jobs and behavior with gender and in doing so it affects their play and personality preferences. With this in mind, children are now set in their gender stereotypes and feel they should not violate the guidelines by playing with someone that is different than them; they feel these guidelines have no flexibility for such violations.
They are having a hard time comprehending boys and girls are different, but they can be alike in other ways (Berk 390-391). Biological influences on gender deals with the sex-type and hormones of humans with females having a 23rd pair with two x-shaped chromosomes and a male having a 23rd pair with an x chromosome and a y chromosome. With hormones females produce estrogen and males produce androgens. With this in mind, Maccoby argues, “that sex hormones (…) affect human play styles, leading to rough, noisy movements among boys and calm, gentle actions among girls ( Berk 391).
When peer interaction occurs, children pick someone that has the same actions as themselves. Girls choose to stay with one-on-one play and boys like to interact with groups (Berk 391). Environmental influences on gender deals with parents, teachers and peer interaction. Children can distinguish between boy and girl at an early age. “Through a myriad of activities, opportunities, encouragements, discouragements, over behavior, covert suggestions and various form of guidance, children experience the process of gender role socialization” (Witt 1).
Children will be exposed to “some form of gender bias or stereotyping” at some point or another during their lifetime (Witt 1). It may be in the form of boys being better at some academic than girls or girls being better at nurturing than boys. When the development of the child proceeds and they start to grow, the stereotypes they receive from home grow and strengthen with other interaction from the environment, such as teachers and peers (Witt 1). Parents expose their children from birth to adolescence on what is means to be male or female.
They have different expectations for boys and girls through discipline, color specific clothing, toys and actions. Parents must realize the attitude they take with their children strongly affects the development of the child, and the child’s self-esteem, which in turn leads to an array of gender stereotyped choices. Parents can’t see how they are limiting their children’s opportunities and learning experiences by instilling gender stereotypes. This type of parenting style is seen as traditional. Parents of children that regard egalitarian views on gender stereotyping showed to be stronger in self-esteem and relationships.
These children viewed the family working as a whole to enter into society as equals without the hindrance of gender stereotypes, and this type of parenting style is seen as non-traditional (Witt 1-3). Teachers also have different expectations for boys and girls but theirs is seen through gender bias -preference of on gender over the other (“An Educator’s Guide to Gender Bias Issues” 1). Teachers emphasize gender-identity learning in the classroom and don’t realize they are doing it. When they ask children to line up, answering questions in class or even when disciplining, they still show a difference between boys and girls.
They view girls as being complaisant and boys as being disruptive. This results in children having different views when socializing in play. Teachers negotiate with girls more often than boys; they are anticipating boys to misbehave because boys tend to get in trouble more (Berk 394). Teachers should strive for a classroom that is equal among boys and girls; so they may give praise to both sexes for a job well done or by encouraging an environment for learning where both boys and girls can cooperate as a group (“An Educator’s Guide to Gender Bias Issues” 6).
As adults, teachers have a strong influence on children, and they need to be helping children find their own identity through encouraging their hopes and dreams with no restrictions to gender stereotypes (Freeman 364). When interacting with peers, children notice a large array of gender stereotypes. Girls are judged differently than boys when interacting in the classroom. If a girl answers a question with confidence and a clear voice, she is viewed as abrupt or harsh, and when boys answer the same way, they are seen as smart and intriguing (“Gender Dynamics in the Classroom” 11).
The gender-role learning process is strong with same-sex peer interaction. The play between same-sex peers promotes a strong perception of gender-typed choices in play, interaction, and item choices. By 3, peers of the same-sex are encouraging each other’s gender-type play through praise, modeling and interacting with one another. They start to pull away from other children who participate in cross-gender play because they view this as being different (Berk 394). All humans have a gender identity- “an image of oneself as relatively masculine of feminine in characteristics (Berk 395).
Most 2 year olds can identify their gender but between 6-11 years of age children can identify who they are based on their personalities (Berk 395). A small amount of children (mostly males) have a “gender identity called androgyny, scoring high on both masculine and feminine personality characteristics”, and very few females have this (Berk 395). These children can have positive traits that impact both genders, which will assist them in reaching their full potential (Berk 395). The emergence of gender identity answers the question “How do children develop a gender identity? ”(Berk 395).
With Bandura’s social learning theory a child’s actions appears ahead of their self-awareness. Children receive these gender-typed acknowledgements by mirroring and reinforcement and will categorize this conduct into gender-related beliefs about themselves. In comparison to Piaget’s cognitive development theory which nurtures self-awareness before actions. Between 2-6 years of age children obtain gender constancy- “a full understanding of the biologically based permanence of their gender, including the realization that sex remains the same over time, even if clothing, hairstyle and play activities change” (Berk 395).
This helps children understand and use their actions. Gender constancy happens in three stages: gender labeling- knowing what sex they are and what sex other’s are, gender stability- comprehending that gender stays the same, and gender consistency- understanding that gender cannot be changed by outward appearances or actions. This can be hard for some children to grasp because they have to differentiate between looks and characteristics. Some suggest that gender constancy is held accountable for gender-typed conduct, but there is no hard evidence that supports this suggestion.
Most gender behavior is seen early in childhood and appears to come from the social learning theory (Berk 395-396). Some consequences that may develop with the emergence of gender identity are that children identify with gender groups too quickly and lack the motivation to learn about other genders once they have established their own (Martin, Ruble 68). In the gender schema theory children gather knowledgeable information, or schemas, which are gender typed ideas about themselves or others and they combine them with their behavioral and thinking skills. This is how children start to interpret what’s happening in their world.
Once children know what sex they are and what sex others are, they chose gender schemas that are in accordance to it and administer it to their own gender categories. They will then use this information to help with their own conduct (Berk 396). The conduct of men and women are noticed and logged into infant’s gender schemas as early as two years of age. Also, during this time specific gender stereotypes can be placed into their gender schemas and it can affect their understanding of gender relations. Equally children are stimulated to perform in agreement with such stereotypes.
Bern, Martin, and Alverson think this stimulation shapes the emotional factors of the gender schema. This theory proposes the cognitive part of the gender schema plays an influential part in the advancement of stereotyped choices and conduct. However, the cognitive affiliation of particular items with gender categories could advance or accompany the emergence of stereotyped choices within the second year. There is not a lot of evidence that supports this assumption but some studies have been performed in cognitive study of gender role, gender labeling and gender identity (Serbin, Poulin-Dubois, Colburne, Sen, and Eichstedt 7-8).
Boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails and girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. If we believe this then our gender stereotyping is restricting children from learning to their full potential. When parents show a difference between boys and girls they are starting a bad trend. Children believe they can be or do anything they want, but when parents teach gender stereotyping they are limiting their children’s dreams. As parents, we want our children to be treated fairly in whatever they choose to do, but we have to stop sending ixed messages about gender stereotyping for this to happen. Children need to be encouraged in their environment with non-gender influences and be allowed to explore their gender identity to the fullest. Delaying exposure to gender stereotyping in young children helps avoid disapproving gender views that limit children’s behavior and learning abilities, which plays a vital role in their social and cognitive development. Crushing a child’s dream is not the answer; however, parents can be preparing their children for society by teaching them to be kind and caring human beings.
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International Journal Of Behavioral Development 25.1 (2001): 7-15. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. Martin, Carol Lynn, and Diane Ruble. “Children’s Search For Gender Cues Cognitive Perspectives On Gender Development.” Current Directions In Psychological Science (Wiley-Blackwell) 13.2 (2004): 67-70. Academic Search Complete. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. Witt, Susan D. “Parental Influence On Children’s Socialization To Gender Roles.” Adolescence 32.126 (1997): 253. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.