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Gender stereotypes influence the development of personality

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Question: To what extent do gender stereotypes influence the development of personality?

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Gender impacts personality development early in life. From about age 2 to age 6 children begin to become aware of their gender and the behaviors and play styles that are commonly associated with their gender identities. The social context of family, school, peer groups and the media send messages that are somewhat stereotypical. According to social learning theory, developed by theorist Bandura boys generally observe and imitate behaviors that are considered masculine, especially from their fathers, and girls generally observe and imitate females, especially their mothers. When same sex behaviors are imitated by children it is acceptable but sometimes imitating the other sex may not necessarily be acceptable if the parents of boys and girls express this to their children. As a result boys and girls may develop a narrow view of what is acceptable for each gender and their personalities may develop largely according to the "norms" of society.

During middle childhood most boys and girls tend to separate into gender segregated cliques that seem to follow their own rules developed within their groups. When there is no adult watching them boys and girls are more likely to separate into groups based on gender with the other sex becoming forbidden. Generally a boy's group is large, competitive, hierarchal and organized around large group activities such as sports. There is a lot of roughhousing and displays of strength and toughness occurring in these groups. Generally girl's groups tend to be smaller and dependent on close conversations to make sure they are able to belong to a group. Boy's groups generally try to avoid anything that is deemed "feminine". Girls generally are more likely to imitate behaviors deemed acceptable for both sexes. These interactions styles to some extent continue throughout adolescence and adulthood.

During adolescence children begin to question their identity. During this stage members of each gender may conform into gender appropriate gender roles. During early adolescence boys generally imitate macho behaviors and become homophobic while girls generally obsess over wearing fashionable clothes and not show their intelligence. They may be more likely to experience problems such as low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders By the end of adolescence, both genders generally accept themselves and others in terms of realizing their gender related behaviors. An individual's personality develops and changes throughout adulthood, as each person goes through major life changes such as marriage, parenthood, middle age and old age.

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Stereotypes influence the development of personality but giving a framework of what and how
each gender should act and look like. We are told early ...

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Theories that Explain Gender Typing

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The textbook offers a information on these milestones in section 7.1. These next few chapters cover physical, cognitive, language and emotional/social development and is sectioned into Birth-6 mo., 7-12 mos., 13-18 mos., and 19-24 mos. This is a great resource for you to use when researching your final paper. (Lefrancois, 2012)

Some other important concepts are to recognize the theories of Vygotsky and Erik Erikson and his contributions to understanding early childhood emotional development. Two of the facets of Erikson's theory deal with "basic trust versus mistrust" and "autonomy of shame and doubt". According to the text, Erikson believed that "warm, responsive care giving leads infants to resolve the psychological conflict of basic trust versus mistrust"(Berk, 2008). He supposes that it is not the quantity of care but more of the quality of care that an infant will respond most positively to. Not all parents are in tune with their child's needs but being attentive, calm and kind does a great deal of good for a young child. Erikson believed that the theory of "autonomy of shame and doubt" focuses on a parent encouraging the right decisions and not being overly critical. As a child learns to be more independent (autonomy) a parent can be helpful by modeling, encouraging, and providing opportunities for the child to assert their independence. On the other hand, a parent that always condemns or reprimands harshly the child when he/she fails will ultimately cause the child to not trust themselves or others.

We also need to understand the impact of parenting styles on the emotional development of children. This mirrors the examples given by Erikson in his theory of Infant and Toddler Personality. The development of basic emotions can be seen in most infants. These emotions are happiness, anger/sadness, interest, surprise, fear, and disgust. Some researchers think that parents who interact with their infants and model different emotional expressions help to teach and organize those basic emotions for their children.

This next important concept ties into the previous one because we are to analyze the development of basic emotions, including happiness, anger, sadness, and fear, over the first year. This is a direct component of Erikson's theory and parenting styles that we have read about in our text. The development of these emotions leads to a child constructing their temperament. These temperaments can help to categorize a child's emotional reaction to a situation, activity level, attention and emotional self-regulation on a daily basis. Children can fall into these categories: the easy child, the difficult child, and the slow-to-warm-up child. One thing to take note of is that temperament is affected not only by genetic influences but environmental influences as well.

The last concept covers the unique features of ethological theory of attachment. Bowlby's theory recognizes that the attachment between an infant and a caregiver is something that evolves over time in stages. At birth babies recognize their mother's voice, smell, face, etc. but do not have an extreme attachment yet. From 6 weeks to 6 months old, a baby begins to develop that attachment because they tend to prefer their caregiver over another adult. However, it is from about 6 months to about 2 years of age that there is evidence of a definite attachment. Infants tend to display "separation anxiety" during this stage and are clearly upset when their caregiver leaves. Because of these experiences during these stages, children create a connection to their caregiver that they can utilize as a support when the caregiver does leave. (Rathus, 2011)

Some of the most interesting pages to read in our textbook are the examples, statistics and stories given. These offer real life examples of the theories, influences, and studies on child development that these chapters discuss. They also help to broaden our perspectives because they share about cultures and family lifestyles that we may not be familiar with. I encourage you to take the time to read these as you come across them in the chapters each week.

Berk, L. (2008). Infants and children - prenatal through
middle childhood (6th edition). Boston: Allyn and Bacon
Lefrançois, G. R. (2012). Children's journeys: Exploring early childhood.
San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Rathus, S. A. (2011). CDEV 2010-2011 Edition. Bellmont, CA:Wadsworth
CENGAGE Learning

Gender roles are the combination of attitudes, behaviors, and personality characteristics that a culture considers appropriate for an individual's anatomical sex. Psychologists have proposed a number of theories to explain gender typing (LeFrancois, 2012).

For this discussion, you will choose and analyze two of the four scenarios in the videos below, and explain how each scenario relates to the theories that explain gender typing. (links can be accessed in attachment).
a. Boy Meets Girl

b. Free to Be, You and Me - Ladies First

c. Free to Be You and Me - Princess Atalantis

d. Free to Be You and Me - William Wants a Doll

What do you think influenced the children in each video? Next, explain how your own gender identity may have been influenced by gender stereotypes. Finally, what are some strategies you can use in an early childhood educational setting to avoid gender stereotyping?

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