Applying Theory to Gender Development

There are several perspectives on how humans develop gender. Older perspectives that emphasized biological differences between males and females have given way to newer perspectives that account for the roles of both biology (e.g., hormones) and environment. When psychologists refer to the environment, they mean the social factors or socialization agents such as peers, family, school, and media, through which a person comes to understand and develop a gender identity. Although many perspectives are in agreement that socialization agents influence gender development, they differ in their conceptualizations of how, why, and to what degree this occurs.

These perspectives have been studied and formulated into theories. Freud led the way with psychoanalytic theories of gender development, suggesting early unconscious drives were the foundation of gender development. Social learning theories are founded in reinforcement and observational models suggesting that gender development is learned. Cognitive development theories suggest that gender differences develop by observation of gender consistencies, gender schemata, or gender scripts within a culture. Whatever the theory, gender roles differ in different cultures.

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In this Assignment, you will analyze the gender development of an individual through the lenses of two gender development theories. You will also evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the two theories in explaining the individual’s development.

ASSIGNMENT:

To prepare

Consider the key socialization agents (culture, family, school, peers, media, or other societal influences) that influence gender development.
Consider the theories presented in the Learning Resources (biosocial theories, psychoanalytic theories, social learning theory, and gender-schema theory) and select two to use for this Assignment.
Interview an individual you know or complete a self-analysis regarding the key socialization agents (influences) in this person’s or your life regarding gender development. Use the questions in the document “Gender Analysis Questions” in this week’s Learning Resources to guide your interview or self-analysis.

Write a 2- to 3-page paper in which you do the following:

Briefly introduce the individual you interviewed (or yourself), including the person’s gender identity.
Summarize the key gender development socialization agents for this individual.
Identify the two theories you selected, and briefly summarize how each would explain the individual’s gender development.
Explain the relative strengths and weaknesses of each theory in explaining the gender development of the individual.

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