Martin and Halverson believe that gender schema develop with age. At the age of two children can identify themselves as being either male or female and can identify others as belonging to the same sex or a different sex. At an early age childrens ideas are rigid and stereotyped. They learn about gender from what they see and experience in the environment. As they get older their gender schemas become more flexible. They learn for example that some nurses are men and some women are footballers. By the age of six they have gained a detailed knowledge of their own sex but less about the other. They concentrate on the things appropriate to themselves and pay less attention to things associated with the opposite sex. It is not until they are older they gain information about the opposite gender.
Not all children develop gender schemas in the same way. As they get older some children remain highly stereotyped whereas others are less stereotyped. Children who are stereotyped look for information to support their ideas and ignore information that doesn't fit their schema. An example of this would be if a stereotypical thinking child saw a conversation on TV between two nurses one male and one female, they would recall them as both being female. If they saw a scene between two male doctors they would recall it in detail because it supports their schema. A less stereotyped child would accurately recall the gender roles in both situations.
Many Psychologists see this theory as being the most detailed and thorough explanation of gender development. It is well supported by the studies such as Martin's, and Levy and Carter's. It also has 'intuitive appeal'. This means that it fits in with our experiences.It does not, however, explain the following:- why some people are more highly gender schematised that others- why gender begins to develop at the age of two- why children choose same-sex friends and gender-appropriate toys before they are able to correctly identify themselves as male or female.
Martin (1989)Aim: To show that children's understanding of gender becomes less stereotyped and therefore more flexible as they get older.Method: Children heard stories about the toys male and female characters enjoyed playing with. Some of the characters were described as liking gender-stereotyped activities, while others were described as liking non-gender-stereotyped activities. The children were then asked to predict what other toys each character would or would not like to play with.Results: The younger children decided on which toys the character would like based on whether they were male or female. The older children, however, considered both whether the character was male or female and the toys they already enjoyed playing with.Conclusion: Older children have a more flexible view of gender than younger children do.
Levy and Carter (1989)Aim: To show that there are individual differences in the way children think about gender.Method: Children were shown pictures of toys and asked to choose the one they would prefer to play with. Sometimes both the toys in the picture would be stereotypically masculine and sometimes both the toys int he picture would be stereotypically feminine and other times there was one of each. These pictures were shown to high and low gender schematised children.Results: The highly gender schematised children chose quickly when they were shown one masculine and one feminine toy. If, however, they were shown two of the same gender they took longer because they either wanted neither of the toys or both of them. The less schematised children chose on the basis of personal preference. It therefore took the same amount of time to chose between toys on the same set.Conclusion: Highly gender schematised children choose toys on the basis of whether they are appropriate for their sex. Less gender schematised children choose on the basis of personal preference.
Explanation and Evatualtion
Studies to Support