Gender Socialization and theories behind it


It the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group or society and behave in a manner approved by the group or society.

¢Socialization is the lifelong process through which people learn the values and norms of a given society.

Socialization essentially represents the whole process of learning throughout the life course and is a central influence on the behavior, beliefs, and actions of adults as well as of children

Gender socialization

It is the process through which children learn about the social expectations, attitudes and behaviors associated with one’s gender. ¢As children attain a sense of their own gender identity they pay heightened attention to information related to gender.

¢This gender awareness, in combination with an exposure to multiple sources of socialization such as parents, siblings and peers, has immediate consequences on children’s attitudes and behaviors toward members of their own and other-gender group

During gender socialization, individuals are taught what behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics are considered appropriate or expected based on their gender. For example, boys may be encouraged to be assertive, competitive, and tough, while girls may be taught to be nurturing, passive, and focused on appearance. These social expectations can vary across different cultures and societies.

Gender socialization not only influences individual behavior but also shapes societal norms and perpetuates gender inequalities. It can limit individuals’ choices and opportunities, reinforcing stereotypes and reinforcing gender roles that may be restrictive or harmful. For example, the expectation that men should be the primary breadwinners can limit women’s access to career advancement or financial independence.

Social learning theory

¢Social learning theory, proposed by Albert Bandura, emphasizes the importance of observing, modeling, and imitating the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. In the context of gender socialization, social learning theory posits that individuals acquire gender-related behaviors by observing and imitating the behaviors of others, particularly influential role models such as parents, siblings, peers, and media figures. Children observe how people of their assigned or perceived gender behave, and they internalize and reproduce these behaviors in their own lives.

¢In addition to the observation of behavior, learning also occurs through the observation of rewards and punishments, a process known as vicarious reinforcement. ¢When a particular behavior is rewarded regularly, it will most likely persist; conversely, if a particular behavior is constantly puni

According to social learning theory, reinforcement also plays a crucial role in gender socialization. When individuals display behaviors that align with societal expectations of their gender, they may receive positive reinforcement, such as praise or rewards, which strengthens the likelihood of repeating those behaviors. Conversely, behaviors that deviate from gender norms may be met with negative reinforcement or punishment, discouraging their repetition.

For example, a young girl who observes her mother engaging in nurturing and caregiving activities may imitate these behaviors and be positively reinforced for doing so. Similarly, a boy who witnesses his father engaging in traditionally masculine activities like fixing cars or playing sports may imitate these behaviors and receive approval from his peers or family members.

Cognitive Development Theory

Cognitive development theory, proposed by Jean Piaget, can be applied to understand the role of cognitive processes in gender socialization. According to this theory, children actively construct their understanding of gender through their cognitive abilities and developmental stages.

During the preoperational stage (ages 2-7) of cognitive development, children begin to acquire language skills and engage in symbolic play. They develop gender schemas, which are mental frameworks that organize their understanding of gender. These schemas help children categorize and make sense of the world around them, including gender-related information and behaviors.

Gender schemas influence how children perceive and interpret gender roles, expectations, and stereotypes. They guide children’s understanding of what is considered appropriate or expected for their assigned or perceived gender. For example, a child with a gender schema for “boys” may categorize certain activities, toys, or clothing as “for boys,” while categorizing others as “for girls.” These gender schemas can shape their preferences, attitudes, and behaviors accordingly.

As children progress to the concrete operational stage (ages 7-11), their cognitive abilities become more advanced. They develop the ability to think logically and understand multiple perspectives. At this stage, children become more aware of societal gender norms and actively seek to conform to or challenge them based on their cognitive development and personal experiences.

Psychoanalytical theory

¢Psychoanalytical theory differs from both social learning and cognitive development theories ¢It is not a learning theory. Psychoanalytic theory, developed by Sigmund Freud, is a psychological framework that aims to explain human behavior, personality development, and mental processes. It delves into the unconscious mind and explores the interplay between different components of the psyche.

¢It suggests that some aspects of gender identity result from  unconscious psychological processes ¢The psychoanalytic approach was founded by Sigmund Freud but its application to gender socialization was founded by Nancy Chodorow.

¢According to Chodorow, when a woman becomes a mother, the most important aspect of her relationship with any daughter is the recognition that they are alike. Thus, her daughter can also become a mother someday. This special connection is felt by the daughter and incorporated into her psyche, or ego. It is important to remember that much of this is happening at an unconscious level. In contrast to the development of daughters, Chodorow suggests that sons are influenced by the essential feelings of difference conveyed by their mother

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