SEX AND GENDER

The Gender Schema Theory of Gender Development

The Gender Schema Theory of Gender Development

A schema is a mental framework of understanding which grows bigger as we learn more about the world around us. Even at the age of two a child will know what sex they are and will have the beginnings of a gender schema, although it will be very poorly developed and stereotyped. A small child is likely to believe, for example, that trucks and buses are driven by men, that long hair is for females and that football is a boy’s game. As he grows older, however, his will understand that there is a behavioural and mental overlap between the sexes.

High and low gender schematised children Some children have more developed gender schemas than others, which is reflected in the kind of toys they choose to play with and what activities they are willing to partake in. In a study conducted by Levy and Carter (1989) less gender schematised children chose toys offered to them in the experiment on the basis of whether they wanted them or not. Highly gender schematised children made the choice based on what they believed to be correct for their gender.

Evaluation of the gender schema theory This theory doesn’t explain why some children become more gender schematised than others, nor does it explain why children are already choosing same-sex friends and toys appropriate to their gender before the development of a gender schema at the age of two. However this theory is supported by a lot of evidence and it is favoured by many psychologists.