Social Approaches to Gender Development
In this chapter we will consider fi ve social and cultural theories of children’s gender development. In general, these theories can be said to emphasize the role that children’s experience in their environment plays in shaping or infl uencing their gender roles. First, we will return briefl y to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory as well as a contemporary, feminist psychoanalytic theory. We will follow this with an examination of learning theory and social learning theory, a view that emphasizes the importance of mechanisms such as reinforcement, punishment, and especially observational learning in shaping behavior. The third theory we will examine in some detail is social role theory, which was developed by social psychologist Alice Eagly and her colleagues to show how sex differences in the behaviors and roles of adults may be related to social processes such as stereotyping and expectancy confi rmation. The fourth theory we will examine is Urie Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory of Development, which considers children’s development in a series of nested contexts. The fi nal theoretical model we will examine in this chapter is social constructionism, a postmodern theory that argues that gender roles and behaviors are socially constructed.