In my opinion, gender stereotypes and the assignment of gender roles affects young children’s gender development by guiding their construction of gender and their behavior. Two theories particularly explain how gender roles and stereotypes influence children’s gender development: social role theory and social cognitive theory. As Rafferty points out, children establish a firm sense of their gender identity by the age of four.
Interactions with parents, peers, and teachers contribute to children’s development of gender understanding. As social cognitive theory posits, children learn gender roles by observing and imitating the behavior of people around them, as well as through the system of rewards for gender-appropriate and punishments for gender-inappropriate behaviors.
Social role theory assumes that gender differences stem from different roles performed by men and women in society. As children observe their parents and other people comply with traditional roles – women as homemakers and men as breadwinners – they imitate these roles and develop their gender identities accordingly.
The concept of gender identity has changed recently in two ways. First, it was found that children develop gender identity at around the age of two when they become aware of physical differences between girls and boys.
Second, it has been acknowledged that, in some children, gender identity may not correspond to biological sex, and, in contrast to gender expression, it cannot be changed.
In spite of these changes, society has not moved far enough beyond the strict categorizations of “female” vs. “male.” Nowadays, children whose interests do not comply with traditional gender expectations can be subject to bullying and discrimination.
Therefore, there is a need to advocate for children with diverse gender identities and raise public awareness of the negative effects of gender stereotypes on children’s gender development and the perpetuation of gender inequality.
The article linked to the forum topic is written by Rafferty. It connects to this week’s topic because it defines the concepts of sex and gender identity and explains the process of gender development in children.
Rafferty gives advice to parents on how they can reduce the impact of gender stereotypes on their children. The article also discusses the ways in which children can express their gender identity. Finally, this source explains how gender stereotypes altered over time.