Overview of gender constancy

In the simplest terms, gender constancy means that children develop a sense of gender over time and finally understand that their biological sex is fixed and permanent.

This theory has a history of more than 50 years and originated from the work of the American psychologist Lauren Scholberg. Although this theory sounds simple, it is at least not a simple concept-this is why research on gender development continues to this day.

The theory of gender constancy was developed in different historical periods. This is also a fact. It does not reflect the current social norms, that is, what is acceptable, or what children should teach in the process of growth and learning. For example, the theory does not consider individuals who are identified as transgender, non-binary, or gender mobile.

Therefore, as you read through the theory and its different components, please remember that the theory is based on Piaget’s work on cognitive development and does not consider any research, theory, or social transformation that took place over the next 50 years.

Definition of gender constancy

The concept of gender constancy refers to a cognitive stage of children’s development. At this stage, they begin to understand that their gender (ie, biological gender) is fixed and will not change over time.

Kohlberg’s theory originated from the French psychologist Jean Piaget’s cognitive development theory and was first proposed in 1966. Kohlberg believes that the most important aspect of gender identity development is the cognitive development of children.

Modern thinking

Although the theory of gender constancy states that physical gender is fixed and cannot change over time, we now know that a broader explanation of sex and gender that was once theorized should be given. In addition, children should always be taught that self-acceptance is the most important.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Gender Development

To understand Kohlberg’s theory, we must first understand the concept of “mode” from the perspective of cognitive development. Schema is a conceptual model through which children understand the world, in this case, their gender.

The gender schema model proposes that children develop their gender identity through internal motivations to meet the expectations of society based on their biological sex. However, Kohlberg believes that this motivation first depends on the child’s multiple stages of cognitive development.

Although the gender schema model suggests that children have intrinsic motivation to comply, it is important to note that with changes in gender norms and changes in social expectations, intrinsic motivation may also change. In any case, children should never be forced to adapt to gender roles that make them uncomfortable.

This pattern of cognitive development occurs between the ages of 2 and 7, during which time children gradually understand that their gender cannot be changed.

Kohlberg believes that once children reach this stage of development, they will be motivated to observe how people expect them to behave and act according to their gender roles.

In this way, Kohlberg insists that children will not understand gender roles unless they know that sex remains the same throughout their lives.

Kohlberg’s stage

Stage 1: Gender labeling (to 3 years old)

In the gender labeling stage, children can tell whether they are a girl or a boy, and the gender of other people. However, they don’t understand that this is a characteristic that cannot be changed over time, like the length of someone’s hair or the clothes they wear.

Stage 2: Gender stability (to 5 years old)

In the gender stabilization stage, children begin to realize that boys grow up to be fathers, girls grow up to be mothers, etc., but they still don’t understand that gender cannot be changed by changing appearance or choice. Activity.

Stage 3: Constant sex (to 7 years old)

Around the age of 6 or 7, children begin to understand that sex is permanent in all situations over time. Once they have formed this understanding, they will begin to act like their gender.

In this way, Kohlberg believes that the most important aspect of gender development is not biological instinct or cultural norms; on the contrary, it is a child’s cognitive understanding of the surrounding social world.

In other words, this is not an incentive for children to feel rewarded and to act in a certain way according to their expectations as boys or girls.

Rather, the development of their gender identity depends on how they feel about men or women, and this feeling develops at a stage that matches their cognitive development. Moreover, these stages are closely related to Piaget’s theory of children’s cognitive development.

Evidence from research on gender constancy

The research evidence supporting Kohlberg’s theory of gender permanent development is mixed.

  • Some early researchers (from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s) believed that children as young as two would naturally exhibit gender-biased behaviors, such as choosing certain toys or playing with other girls or boys.
  • Some people believe that parental strengthening of gender-consistent behavior is also crucial for children’s development of gender identity.
  • Some studies have shown that even babies can distinguish between male and female faces and voices.
  • Some people think that gender constancy is actually the most immature form of gender concept.

In a related study, Slaby and Frey (1975) used gender concept interviews to examine children’s understanding of gender. They surveyed 55 children between 2 and 5 years old and asked 14 questions and counter questions.

Examples of questions are as follows, each of which represents a different stage of Kohlberg’s theory:

  • Is this a girl or a boy? (Show photo)
  • Are you a boy or a girl?
  • When you were a baby, were you a girl or a boy?
  • When you grow up, will you be a mom or a dad?
  • If you wear girl’s clothes, will you be a girl?
  • Can you be a boy if you want?

The researchers then showed the children a movie and measured their attention to male or female characters. They found that children with stronger gender constancy were more likely to follow same-sex role models. This provided support for Kohlberg’s theory.

Other theories of gender development

Kohlberg’s theory is that the development of gender roles depends on whether children have mastered the concept of their gender remaining the same.

However, others believe that human development is a more complex process, which depends on various inter-influencing factors. Most notably, Canadian-American psychologist Albert Bandura believes that development is the result of the interaction of behavior, people, and the environment.

For example, from this perspective, a child who receives negative feedback about boys wearing skirts will begin to understand gender roles. In other words, the way you socialize as a child provides you with information about how to go to the world as a girl or a boy. This may be affected by the clothes your parents buy you, the decoration of the room, the toys you play with, and the activities that encourage you to participate.

If you are rewarded for acting in accordance with your gender role, then you will be motivated to act in accordance with gender stereotypes.

This external feedback will eventually be internalized so that when you act on gender stereotypes, you will feel better about yourself. With age, internal self-regulation will become more important.

Note again that this is an old theory based on an era when gender roles are less fluid.

At the same time, other theorists also agree that cognition is important to some extent.

For example, Martin and Halverson (1981) proposed a new theory of gender types. They proposed that stereotypes are a way of processing large amounts of information. In other words, as a little boy or girl, the world can be confusing. Therefore, it will be easier to start categorizing things according to gender. They think that stereotypes are a bit like a road map for how to deal with interacting with new friends.

Martin and Halverson believe that children are very rigid in using these stereotypes, but as they grow older, they become more flexible.

Very good sentence

Although the development of gender identity is still being studied, Kohlberg’s original concept has received different support. Only by constantly working hard to understand the development of children’s gender identity can we correctly understand this phenomenon. In addition, as our understanding of physical gender and gender continues to change, theories such as these are likely to continue to develop.

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