Free Essay - Gender Development and Theories

Published: 2023-08-15
Free Essay - Gender Development and Theories
Essay type:  Argumentative essays
Categories:  Gender Child development Consciousness Cognitive development
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1219 words
11 min read

The development of gender in children occurs in stages. Biologically, when a child is born, he or she does not perceive differences in gender hence it upon a time to distinguish this during the development period. Over time, children realize their respective genders and their permanency (Profile, 2019). During these stages, children also experience growth in their thinking capabilities that translates them into understanding these differences. Improved thinking in children defines cognitive development which follows four distinct stages. Basing on these stages and growth of children, it is evident that as children grow, their mental capacity also increases which leads them to acquire more knowledge. This paper, therefore, provides the basic relationship existing between gender development and these stages which are highlighted in the social learning theory and the cognitive-developmental theory.

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Theoretical Perspective of Gender Development

As highlighted above, infants do not perceive their gender difference and therefore exhibits no specific roles. However, focusing on Bandura’s social theory, the environment in which a child is subjected to influences his or her behavior. By these, external variables in the child’s environment influence how he or she shapes internal character. Bosacki (2013) pointed out that, activities, expectations, emotions, and patterns in the modelling environment are critical in gender recognition. Through observations and learning, children can distinguish their roles and relate the same to their respective genders. Thus, they become selective on preference, choices, and decisions they make as well as engagement to various activities. In doing so, they participate in the rehearsal of such behavior hence acquiring a mental organization in similar aspects besides learning how to monitor and enact their traits (Profile, 2019).

According to McLeod (2016), learning in children occurs through observation. By analyzing behaviors in the environment the character of children becomes influenced. All the people that interact with these children impacting a change in them are seen as models. For this, a child will imitate whatever is presented before regardless of whether it is gender-dependent or not. During the early stages of development, children will tend to relate to the behavior exhibited by their models as a punishment or reinforcement. In this perspective, if the behavior of the child will acquire from the model is positively rewarding, such traits are likely to be carried on to the next stage as they will continue to engage. However, if the character exhibited by a child to the model calls for punishment, such traits are likely to be dropped (McLeod, 2016). These, describe the social learning theory in which a child will learn from environmental interactions, understanding how to relate the gender with the roles linked such sex. For instance, the aspect of masculinity and femininity shapes the roles to which children assume. Therefore, the phenomena behind gender development originate from childhood context placing children at the center of learning. These owe a great deal to cognitive development theory which argues that the behavior of a child is like that of a young scientist – who experiment, observes, and learns (McLeod, 2016). Additionally, gender development in a child does follow mental recognition. Bosacki (2013) suggested that the growth of mind leads to variability in perception ranging from simple to more complex reasoning and emotions. According to cognitive development theory, the three stages of gender development include, labeling, stability, and consistency are critical in children’s growth. In this, children do not think in the same way adult individuals thinks and therefore their thinking evolves specific stages. The ability of children to acquire, adapt, and employ multi-component functions in life defines self-regulation (Montroy et al., 2016)). The concept of self-regulation owes its origin from infancy; worth skills are incorporated in the domain while those that are less important objected. The integral organization of these variables into a permanent end occurs over time. In the cognitive development theory, gender identification is perceived to influence learning across gender. Whatever the children interact with or see around brings draws a conception of how they should behave (Bussey & Bandura, 1999). During the last stage of gender development, the individual realizes that the physical characteristic they are possessing is constant and cannot change. In such, they positively embrace their identity behaving in a manner consistent with societal perception. Since the cognitive characteristic in this state is to behave in a manner that is consistent with the gender, individual children seem to specialize in activities that are rewarding to their specific sex. By these, males’ children will engage in boys’ things while females in girls’ things just to be approved for their difference which is rewarding. Therefore, the interplay between the thoughts and actions across gender develops stability in recognition leading to constancy in gender identification.

During the first and early second stage of gender development, children are yet to experience any difference in sexuality. However, during the mid and late second stages of gender development, children start to understand their difference and associate them with logical thinking such as being a mother or a father (Profile, 2019). Such a development in children has also been recognized by piglet cognitive development theory which comprises of four stages. Sensorimotor (≤ 2years), (preoperational (2-7 years), concrete operational (7-10 years), and formal operational (≥ 12 years). During the first and second stages, children learn by observing the behaviors and actions in the environment hence acquiring some knowledge. However, their thinking is capability is still low and cannot reason out logically, therefore, gender differentiation is yet to exhibit. Accordingly, during the third and fourth stage, there is a major characteristic associated with mind growth, children think logically and can distinguish their gender with certainty. Within these stages, children can apply the general principles of life in organizing themselves, by this, they can underline their gender roles leading to self-regulation.


Gender development is a gradual process that occurs in stages. The cognitive theory of development highlights four stages in a child's growth that are critical in defining end adaptations. These stages include the Sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational stages. Further, in gender identification, these stages are narrowed down to gender labeling, gender stability, and gender constancy. In the processes of identifying their gender, children relate to the external environment with the rewards they get from their models. While relating to their external environment, they tend to specific about certain roles basing on their uncovered identity. These full realization of gender as something that cannot be changed leads them to embrace their character with how society conceptualizes it. As children embrace such behaviors, their social interaction also changes and tries to imitate certain traits defining the identity in this case not by being rewarded but by fully understanding their gender.


Bosacki, S. L. (2013). A longitudinal study of children's theory of mind, self-concept, and perceptions of humor in self and others. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, 41(4), 663-673. Retrieved from

Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review, 106(4), 676. Retrieved from

McLeod, S., (2016). Bandura – social learning theory. Simply psychology. Retrieved from

Montroy, J. J., Bowles, R. P., Skibbe, L. E., McClelland, M. M., & Morrison, F. J. (2016). The development of self-regulation across early childhood. Developmental psychology, 52(11), 1744. Retrieved from

Profile, M., (2019). Cognition and gender development. Open learn. Retrieved from

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