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Unit 3 Gender Notes

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Psychology A2 Revision Notes Unit 3: Gender Psychological Explanations of Gender Development

Sex: When a person is identified based on their chromosomal make up - XX for females and XY for males. Gender: Masculine and feminine traits and behaviours.

Gender Constancy Theory (GCT)








Devised by Kohlberg, 1966. Cognitive developmental theory. Emphasises the role of the thinking processes. Interested in how the understanding of gender changes over time. Suggests that changes in gender behaviour are due to a change in how the child thinks about gender. o Changes reflect:
 Accumulation of information about gender gathered from the environment.
 Development changes in the child's brain which allow it to process information in a more sophisticated way. IDA: GCT contrasts with SLT. o States that children copy same sex models and thereby develop a gender identity. Kohlberg: o Argued that children need an understanding of gender identity before they can imitate same sex models. o Children find it rewarding to behave in line with their gender identity.
 E.g. ''I am a girl, therefore I want to do girl things''. o Proposed that children go through stages in the development of their gender identity. Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development: Influenced Kohlberg's stages in GCT. Interactionist view, takes into account the effects of nature and nurture on a child's cognitive development. There are four stages: o Sensorimotor Stage;
 0-2 y/o.
 Children repeat the same action over and over to test sensorimotor relationships (circular reactions).
 No object permanence.
 I.e. if and object is hidden they believe it no longer exists.
 Object permanence develops at c. 8 months. o Pre-Operational Stage:
 2-7 y/o.
 Main stage of cognitive development.
 Children's thoughts become more symbolic, e.g. words and images.
 Not capable of reversibility of thoughts.

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E.g. They do not understand that the properties of an object remain the same despite changes to its physical appearance.
 Unable to conserve.
 Thought to be because they rely upon perceptual rather than logical based reasoning. o E.g. If a biscuit is split in half, children think there are two biscuits as opposed to one broken in half.
 Strongly influenced by physical appearance. o Concrete Operation
 7-11 y/o.
 Children are able to conserve.
 I.e. Recognising quantities don't change despite changes in appearance.
 Acquired logical operations. o Formal Operations:
 11+ y/o.
 Children can solve abstract problems, think idealistically and hypothetically.
 Some adults never reach this stage, may be due to genetic reasons. Changes in the pre-operational stage and concrete stage which are interested in relation to gender. Kohlberg's Stages of Gender Development: o Basic Gender Identity:
 2-3.5 y/o.
 Can correctly label their own sex.
 Believe it possible to change sex. o Gender Stability:
 3.5-4.5 y/o.
 Awareness that gender is stable over time.
 E.g. Boys will become men but less aware that gender is stable across situations.
 Gender still influenced heavily by appearance.
 E.g. Hair and clothes.
 Symptomatic of the pre-operational stage where reasoning is based on physical appearance.
 Cannot conserve gender across situations. o Gender Constancy:
 4.5-7 y/o.
 Realise that gender is constant over time and across situations independent of physical appearance.
 Reached concrete operations stage, can conserve gender. Children will not show sex typed behaviour until they have the necessary mental structures to understand it. When they understand that gender is a constant then they will act in a sex typed way. At this point, social experiences will have an influence on them. o Will begin to seek out information about appropriate sex typed behaviour.

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I.e. Actively seek out gender relevant information in a process of self-socialisation. Evidence for GCT: Study: Thompson 1975 Support the timing of the gender identity stage. Found that 76% of 2 y/o could correctly identify their sex. Found that 90% of 3 y/o could correctly identify their sex.





















Study: Slaby and Frey 1975 Support the development of gender constancy over time in the gender stability stage. Asked young children 'will you be a mummy or daddy when you grow up?' Found that children did not realise this was stable until they were 3-4y/o as predicted by Kohlberg. o Supported by the likes of Bem and Martin and Halverson.
 Argue that children begin to pay attention to gender related behaviours much earlier than Kohlberg suggested.
 Argue that children start to construct schemas at about 2 y/o.
 These schemas drive gender role behaviour. Study: Kohlberg Asked 4 y/o(s) whether a dolls sex could be changed if they wanted it to. Most answered that it could. Contrastingly, 6 y/o(s) said that the doll's sex could not change. Shows that at age 4, there is no ability to conserve gender over situations whereas by age 6, this ability has been developed. Weaknesses: o Younger children may not have understood that the doll was supposed to represent a real person and a doll can be whatever you want it to be.
 Language is often an issue, as children may not understand the question. o Shown that children can conserve gender at a younger age when the tasks are better designed.
 Study: Martin and Halverson 1983
 Asked 'if you wore opposite sex clothes, would you really be a boy or a girl?'
 Found that 90% of 4,5,6 y/o(s) were correct and could conserve gender. Study: Slaby and Frey 1975 Provided evidence that the development of gender consistency motivates children to seek out gender relevant information. Sample of 2-5 y/o(s) divided in to two groups; high and low consistency. Showed then a silent film of a man and a women carrying out gender stereotypical tasks. o Shown on a split screen, man on one side, women on the other. Observed which screen the children spent most time watching. Found that those with high gender constancy spent more time watching the model who was the same sex as them. Supports Kohlberg's claim that constancy is required before children are driven to seek gender relevant information. Study: Ruble 1981

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More realistic study than Slaby and Frey. Found that children with high gender constancy were more sensitive to the messages in toy adverts that were gender specific. Affected their willingness to play with the toys. Methodological Issues: Cognitive psychologists need to access children's thinking about gender behaviour. o Through structured interviews as they have greater reliability than unstructured. o Example: Gender Concept Interview
 Involves asking children questions about their own and other's gender identity.
 What their gender identity was in the past and what it will be in the future.
 May ask what their gender identity might be if they played with toys associated with the opposite sex or wore clothes worn by the opposite sex.
 Weaknesses: o Questions may be leading. Young children are more suggestable and vulnerable resulting in the interviewer getting the answer out of them that they want not the true one. o Subjectivity. Since interviewers may interpret answers differently. Can be overcome by recording the interview and having different interviewers analyse it - inter-rater reliability. Sandra Bem suggests an alternative explanation of failure to conserve. o 'The defining features of gender'. o Suggests that children may fail to conserve because they do not understand the essential defining features of an object or person.
 E.g. In Piaget's clay ball task, they do not understand what is meant by 'more'. o Gender is defined in terms of the individual's biological sex as shown by their genitals. o Argues that young children may not have genital knowledge, explaining why they cannot conserve gender.
 When they know what the genitals of the opposite sex look like then they achieve gender constancy. Study: Bem 1989 Supported her theory. Sample group, children aged 3 - 5.5. Showed them a set of 3 photos starting with a picture of the child in the nude. Then asked them the gender identity of the same toddler dressed in sex appropriate clothes then sex inappropriate clothes. To say that they could conserve gender they had to get all three right. Found that 40% of 3-5 y/o could conserve gender. Found that 77% of those who failed also failed the genital knowledge test. o I.e. They didn't know what the opposite sex genitalia looked like. Weakness:

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Bem criticised her own methodology arguing that the task is nonsense.
 When children are asked to resolve a contradiction between clothes and genitalia, they look to cue which are most important in society.
 Children who resolve this by referring to clothes simply show that they have learned about the world they live in. o Additionally, children with siblings might have learnt at a younger age about the opposite gender's genitalia. Bem's view is a social constructionist view of the development of gender. o I.e. The bases for differentiating between male and female don't occur within the child's mind but in socially organised experiences. Study revealed that many young children did not use their concept of physical things but rather their knowledge depended on social knowledge and how culture organises gender differentiation. o






Stretch and Challenge: In some cultures, gender is not constructed as being a clash between males and females, e.g. Hijras. Construction of gender may vary over history and across sub-cultures. Therefore, social constructionists challenge the idea that biology is the foundation and gender is simply a cultural overlay. This view contrasts with most cognitive development accounts which tend to see the individual looking out at society trying to make sense of it rather than as a collective social activity.

Gender Schema Theory (GST)




Devised by Martin and Halverson, 1987, Links closely with Piaget;s theory of cognitive development. Based on the idea that children are innately programmed to organise information in terms of schemas. o Schema is a cognitive structure used to organise information about a specific type of person, object or situation. o Usually formed based on experiences.
 People make sense of new experiences by matching new experiences to the schema they have produced in the past. Assimilation: Takes place when an existing schema is used on a new experience with new information being incorporated into the existing schema (Piaget). Accommodation: Takes place when a child adapts their existing schema in an attempt to understand new information that does not seem to fit. GST suggests: o A child's gender development reflects the increasing complexity of schemas as they develop around 'maleness' and 'femaleness'.
 I.e. An organised set of beliefs about the sexes. Kohlberg's theory suggest that gender is driven primarily by biological mutation of the cognitive structures. o I.e. The developmental stage that they are at, will determine how they process information about gender.

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Kohlberg suggests that children do not actively seek information about gender until they achieve gender constancy, c. 6-7y/o. o GST attempts to address the main problem with Kohlberg's theory, that sex typed behaviour does emerge long before children achieve an understanding of gender. GST (in contrast to GCT) suggests that when children have acquired gender identity schemas can be formed. o Usually around age 2.
 When they can determine whether they are male or female. GST uses an Information Processing Approach: o Part 1: Schemas are used to actively organise information that children receive about gender roles. o Part 2: Schema determines what children attend to, how they interpret their experiences and what they remember. GST provides an explanation as to why young children hold such fixed attitudes. o E.g. A child ignoring or not remembering any information which does not fit with their in-group information. o As gender schemas increase in complexity, the child becomes better at coping with uncertainty.
 Alongside their idea of what is appropriate or acceptable beginning to relax. Martin and Halverson proposed the In-group/Out-Group: o First schema formed. o Simple, consists of two groups; boys and girls. o Child's own group is considered the in-group. o Opposite sex group is considered the out-group. o Schema consists of organised information about which toys and activities are suitable for boys and which are suitable for girls. Another early schema is 'own gender schema'. o Contains information on how to behave in a gender stereotyped way. Children look to the environment to develop and build their gender schema which become progressively more complex. Thus, theory is similar to SLT. o Suggests that parents, peers and the media will be powerful sources of influence on the development of gender. Stages of the Development of Gender Schema: Proposed by Martin, Little and Wood, 1990. o Stage 1:
 Children learn what type of things are associated with each sex.
 E.g. Girls wear dresses and boys have short hair. o Stage 2:
 Children begin to link items together and draw conclusions based on their societies view of sex appropriate behaviour.
 E.g. If a person has long hair, wears dresses and plays with dolls, they are female.
 Conclusions usually only made about their own sex.
 Occurs at 4-6y/o. o Stage 3:
 c. 8 y/o,

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 conclusions can be made about the opposite sex. Evidence Supporting GST: Study: Fagot 1985 Found that 2 y/o who can correctly label their gender spend 80% of their time in same gender groups. o Also more sex typed in their choice of toys. o Have more knowledge of gender stereotypes. Whereas those who cannot label themselves only spend 50% of their time in same gender groups. Shows in-group and out-group schema as well as preferences. o For in-group schema, gender identity is needed. Study: Martin and Little 1990 Children aged 3-5. Tested them on gender, identity, stability and constancy as well as clothing and toy stereotypes and preferences. Found that children only require gender identity for knowledge and preferences to be influenced.

Study: Martin and Halverson 1987 Evidence for resilience. Quasi-experiment. Boys and girls, shown a film of individuals in cross gender activities. o E.g. Men acting as nurses and women as doctors. Found that they missed the point, distorted the information or quickly forgot it. Therefore, children seem to admit data to their memories which are consistent with their schema and disregard data that are inconsistent with it. Also shows gender appropriateness of the activity is more important than the sex of the model. o Children do not simply imitate what same sex models do. Thus supporting that schemas are very resilient.

Evaluation: o Quasi-experimental method involves comparing boys and girls or children of different ages in their performance on tasks that involve information processing about gender.
 They are quasi as age and gender cannot be deliberately manipulated.
 Reliance on this method is problematic as although the results tell us that boys and girls do think differently they do not allow us to make casual conclusions as to why. Study: Campbell et al 2000 Studied babies aged 3 months, 9 months and 18 months. Used a visual preference technique.

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