Gender Learning

Gender Learning
According to social learning theory, gender roles and identities are development sets that are acquired from the environment. Parents are considered the most influential agents in as far as the social development of children within natural units is concerned.Sexual orientation is the most basic method that these parents use to develop the social wellbeing of their children. In particular the play materials can influence children’s orientation and give rise to stereotypes that may passed on from generation to generation. Play toys and materials that a child is exposed to have the potential to shape their behavior, beliefs and attitudes in either positive or negative ways. Ultimately this can determine the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills that children develop as they transition into adulthood.  In the natural social units, parents form the most influential agents in the children social development. The basic method that they use to encourage these developments is through sexual orientation. This paper seeks to examine the role that gender-based cognitive theories undertake in reasoning out children’s preferenceplaymaterials.

During the 20th century, toy ads did not exude gender disparity and history states that this aspect emerged during toy marketing in pre-post World War II periods. As of 1995, the market was greatly affected by stereotyping advertising of toys and despite the innocent aim of firms to boost their sales through such strategies, the ads had nostalgic effects on children.

There are two major approaches taken by social learning psychologists in their analysis of gender orientation and development issues. Some psychologists have  undertaken laboratory experiments to observe behavioral characteristics and measure effects of both aspects. On the other hand, there are psychologists who have conducted naturalistic observation of toddlers’ behavior and compared this to their adult behavior within natural settings. From the naturalistic observation it is clearly evident that both parents and children choose playing materials such as toys based on gender-centric and egocentric mechanisms. Parents rely on their pre-existing knowledge and the beliefs on different sex orientations to choose the toys for their children based on their genders. Gender stereotyped labels on toys significantly affect choice of toys, exploration of play things and how children perform in certain toy-related games. The naturalistic observations also explore how traits stemming from playthings affect the traits of children and become streamlined in their minds, creating stereotype expectations that become part of their growth and development cycle.

Psychologists have adopted two important theories based on this phenomenon and these are the learning theory and gender schema theory. Both theories expound on the role of parents in determining gender and socialization stereotypes in their children and how this impacts on the children as they grow into adulthood.  According to the learning theory, children learn about gender roles and behavior through external stimuli such as the rewards and punishments they receive from their parents. Stimuli development conceptualizes the aspects of rewards and punishment which can range from simple facial expression and verbal cues to active involvement with play and specific toys.

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In social learning theory parents are considered the main molders or sculptors of the social process while children are simply dormant participants and observers who absorb the gender related information generated  by their parents. This assumption is essential in learning  and comprehending the role played by parents in gender socialization. For instance, Oloiya et al., observed during their study observed that parents usually guide  and direct children in selecting toys and their reactions, whether in the form or rewards or punishments, to a greater extent affect gender development in these children.  For example when female children choose feminine stereotyped toys such as dolls, they receive parental reinforcement yet if the same girls chose masculine stereotyped toys such as trucks, their choice would be met with disapproval. The same applies to male children depending on whether they choose masculine or feminine toys.

The gender schema theory on the other hand suggests that sex typing is not generated from outside forces but is more of an innate creation that stems from an individual based on gender schematic capabilities. The shifted focus on individual capabilities explains the varying levels of  femininity and masculinity in children despite having been brought up in the same social settings. Parents play the role of creating learning environments based on gender while societal gender expectations provide children with sex-type information based on toy ads which they internalize and self-conceptualize. While boys learn and hold masculine schemes an 


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