In developmental psychology one of the most critical topics of debate is that of nature versus nurture and the ensuing balance of the two. Both the surrounding social environment and the child's predisposition must be taken into account when examining the development of the self. As emphasized by Durkin, there is a balance between a child's response to the environment and their predetermined self. "External influences are not omnipotent" and therefore do not determine all facets of self development (Durkin, 1995, p. 297). Children are not passive in their development, nor are they a void to be filled by their parent's and society's beliefs. They are, however, affected by their environment and extremely impressionable during the crucial time of self development of infancy to adolescence. This paper aims to discuss the social dimensions that effect a child's gender development. Focusing on the role of the parent, we will also discuss general socially accepted "meanings" of being a boy and a girl.
[...] The development of the self is a highly social process and the critical development of the gender role is a social construct based on the natural and biological sex distinction. As Durkin understood the development of a self concept is simultaneously despite, and because of other people” (Durkin, 297). Our actions towards and responses to a child's behavior; whether we are a parent, peer or merely a part of general society, affect how that child is going to behave. When examining our influence on the development of gender, which is a socially learned construct, we must take into considerations our preconceived ideas as well as the child's predisposition to a certain concept of self. [...]
[...] As exemplified by Durkin (1995) there have been studies on the correlation between parental encouragement of behavior based on sex and the child's subsequent gender role identification. It would be expected that boys would be encouraged to be more aggressive and competitive than girls, who were encouraged to be polite and caring ‘ladies', however, no actual sexual based differences in parenting was found(Durkin, 1995). Therefore the consequent comparison on the effect of the parenting style on the development of child could not be made. [...]
[...] The media is the most easily measurable indicator of the mainstream societal beliefs, and it sustains a plethora of gender role models. Using the television as the most common and widespread medium, we see that many traditional ideas of gender roles are perpetuated. Studies have shown that television shows place men in more dominant and successful career roles, while females are placed in principally traditional roles like that of mother, wife, secretary and nurse (Durkin, 1995). Television advertisements enforce sex role stereotyping as well, in that women often use the products in the commercials, frequently household goods and cleaning products, and men are regularly receiving the services. [...]
[...] This is a two fold reaction: one, the social response we receive is commonly based on our outward appearance since it is the most common way of identification, and two we view ourselves in the context of our environment. Another highly influential way that parents direct a child's concept of gender and therefore the self is through the encouragement of sex-type behavior. Fagot (1978) supposed that parents' reinforced gender based behavior through smiles, praise and attention. In one study developed by Will et al. [...]
[...] After which we will look at the influence the environment has on a child's gender role development. The parent is a key player in the environment of a child and influences through direct encouragement through conditioning and labeling, and modeling. The role of the parent will be discussed later in the paper. Children identify with a gender first and then look towards the environment to create a persona that fits that gender. The first realization of the for an infant is that of the physical self. [...]
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