Children develop a sense of their gender as they grow older. The image in their head comes from parents, teachers, people in society, and the toys they play with. Bryjak and Soroka also claim “Preparation for a future adult role often entails learning about activities deemed appropriate for members of one’s sex. Learning to be an adult, thus, translates into learning to be a proper adult women or adult man” (214-215). With gender-biased and stereotypical views, society sets forth the mold of a “proper” adult.
Gender roles are the behaviours that society teach us as appropriate for boys and girls. These are based on gender stereotypes, which are “assumptions made about the characteristics of each gender, such as physical appearance, physical abilities, attitudes, interests or occupations.” (Gooden and Gooden, 2001). This essay will define and discuss gender and its significance throughout early childhood. Gender socialisation will be related to throughout this discussion as the effects of the family, the school, the media and the peer group on gender socialisation will also be looked at. To conclude the essay, statistics and studies will be discussed with relation to gender role socialisation.
Just the Way We Are Everyone thought that there are similar differences between males and females. Both genders are different through their social, emotional and intellectual qualities. Gender roles influence women and men in virtually every area of life including family and occupation, but are women and men subject to different roles or behavior expectations? Gender role by definition is,” the public image of being male or female that a person presents to others.” (Dictionary.com). In early American culture it was common for a women’s job to be an obedient housewife in clear contrast to the male’s duty to be a job holder.
Sex refers to one’s biological identity of being male or female while gender refers to the socially learned expectations and behaviours associated with being male or female. Sex is biologically assigned while gender is culturally learned. From the time that we are born we are influenced by various things, the surrounding environment, our parents, the culture of the area and country. Children are most influenced by their parents and are at their most impressionable from a very young age [Lauer & Lauer, 1994; Santrock, 1994; Kaplan, 1991] . Generally it is widely accepted across the board that early gender socialisation is one of the most important issues in early childhood, as it is affecting both boys and girls.
Kohlberg related many of these ideas to gender development. Kohlberg believed that children actively structure their own experiences, rather than passive learning through observing and imitating. According to his theory, children acquire understanding of gender in three stages. The first stage is gender labelling (2-3.5 years). At this stage children label themselves and others as girl or boy, but this is based only on outward appearance.
The roles we give people in society based on their sex at birth, is what we would refer to as Gender Stratification. For instance, being born female in Caribbean societies once meant that you like light or pastel colours, enjoy taking care of baby-dolls and playing dress-up, know how to bake and cook at an early age, wash clothes, clean, and generally pursue the role of a teacher, nurse, or stay at home mother, etc. Being a boy, are not interested in what we consider feminine colours, play fight, make slingshots, hunt, work hard academically and follow up in a hard labour career, or in sales, banks, government jobs, etc. We are taught early to fulfill gender roles that in a Structural functional viewpoint, contribute to the normalcy of everyday living. These types of societies have become the norm around the world in almost all societies, where patriarchies are most acceptable and a hierarchy is existent, placing women on the lower rung, and women of colour at a greater disadvantage, with even less privileges, at the rung ten steps below the lowest rung.
This is supported and was shown by McConachy’s study of gender stability where they asked young children to identify the sex of a doll. They found that children aged 3.5 to 4 used hair length to decide on the sex of the doll. The third and final stage is gender constancy or consistency. At around 6-7, children realise that gender is permanent; if a woman has her head shaven, she is still female. Gender understanding is only complete when a child appreciates that gender is permanent over time and different situations.
Parents are often the first ones responsible. When a newborn is brought home, the process is apparent. Boys’ rooms are most oft often painted blue or other bold colors. Girls’ rooms are painted pink or soft colors. Parents also give their children gender-specific toys.
GENDER WORLD GENDER WORLD Abstract Because we all live in a gender ruled world, girls and boys, and women and men as a whole, must come together and erase the not so invisible line that separates us. Living in the 21st Century has changed all the rules and regulations we once lived by. Women can come out of the kitchen and actually have a career while men can be stay at home dads and raise the family. Boys can wear pink and purple without being judged while on the other hand girls have always worn blue with no issues. The double standard is still very much alive but it is changing at a rapid pace.
Can parts of gender stereotype be biological? Can we link this to how children develop the ability to communicate and how they use it at a young age? There are many researchers discussing whether language acquisition between men and women are indeed different and many believe that its caused by gender bias among our society. The general concept is that we are not born with gender, but that gender is something we perform or learn to do. However, there is evidence to show that even at a young age, boys and girls that learn how to communicate, will learn at different speeds and will struggle with different aspects of learning how to communicate.