“Discuss Social Influences on Gender Roles.”

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Social learning theory (SLT) suggests that behaviour is learnt through observation and imitation of “models”. SLT explains gender role by saying children learn their gender role primarily through vicarious reinforcement. Children are positively reinforced for behaving in gender-appropriate ways (i.e. a girl playing with a doll) and are punished for behaving in gender-inappropriate ways (i.e. a boy playing with a doll). Furthermore, social learning theory supports the nurture side of the nature nurture debate by stating that gender role is learnt through upbringing. Bandura found that children can tell the difference between male and female behaviours and they then use this to influence their own behaviour. For example, Bandura et al found that children do no model the behaviour of both of their parents (i.e. a boy may not cook dinner even though they observe their mother carrying out this behaviour). Support for social influences on gender roles comes from Bandura’s bobo doll study. The study involves an adult model influencing a child’s behaviour which supports the modelling aspect of SLT. On the other hand, Bussey et al found that the influence of modelling on children and the development of their gender roles is limited by existing stereotypes. Bussey came to this conclusion when he found that children imitate same sex models but do not imitate same sex models that are gender inappropriate. Gender roles are also affected by social influences like parents. Parents sometimes have strong opinions on the divides between genders which results in different reinforcements for different behaviours. For example, a mother may react negatively to their daughter playing with masculine toys but positively to their son playing with the same toys. Parental influence has strengths, for example there is a wealth of scientific evidence supporting it. An example of this

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