Developmental Psychology (Compare and contrast two theoretical approaches to understanding the development of gender identity in children. Critically evaluate the strength of their principles and supporting empirical evidence.) Gender identity in children is studied by various researchers and identified in different methodologies…
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These theories are backed by empirical evidence received from some secondary sources. The developmental psychology of gender identity in children can be learnt from the psychodynamic theories and the cognitive theories. Apart from these broad categories, other theories also have valid existence in this subject, which are based upon the biological accounts, social learning or cultural influence. However, those theories are beyond the scope of this paper and shall not be discussed here. The Cognitive Theory The Cognitive Theory emphasizes upon the role the child plays in the construction of its own identity through ‘self-socialization’. This implies that the child is guided by its own cognitive process to determine its own gender which governs its own behavior and judges the behaviors of its peers (McManus, 1999). According to Kohlberg, the problem of sexual development is not directly influenced by neither the biological features of a child, nor the culture in which he is brought up. Sexual identity begins with cognition. In this context one has to keep in mind the distinction between sex and gender. Sex is the physical attribute that a baby is born with while gender refers to the psychological, emotional as well as behavioral attributes that is associated with the particular group of same sex members as the child. Gender Schema Theory According to the cognitive developmental theory, children pass through “basic gender identity and gender stability” (Shaffer, 2009, p. 283) before they can reach gender consistency. At this point of time the child becomes selective about persons of the same sex as it and become gender typed. The Gender Schema Theory is a sub part of the cognitive theory. This theory, developed by Martin and Halverson, explains that a child, who has recognized a basic gender identity, establishing itself as boy or girl, builds “in-group/out group” and own-sex gender schema”. These help the child to process any gender related information also in associating itself with stereotyped gender role. The child is guided by logic or reasoning by his own and the discovery of its own gender helps in the formation of a gender schema. Subsequently, other gender beliefs dawn upon him. This determines the child’s preferences for the choice of play toys and also peer groups. The child behaves in an appropriate way that is considered typical to its gender by accepting the schema consistent information and discarding the schema inconsistent ones (Shaffer, 2009, p. 283). The Psychodynamic Theory The psychodynamic theory goes back to its founder, Sigmund Freud. In general this theory explains that “relationships within the family determine gender” (Bolich, 2007, p. 135). The principle of this theory is that children face inner psychic conflicts while they grow up, which are responsible for their identification of their gender and behavioral pattern. The masculine or feminine identity develops within a child as a result of the relationship it shares with its father and mother. Freud’s concepts of Oedipus complex and Elektra complex go a long way towards the development of the theory of gender identity in children. Oedipus complex grows in boys when they grow up. They start desiring their mother sexually. At the same time they suffer from castration anxiety in the fear that their father is more powerful and stands in way of his
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It cannot be always fair
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