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3.1.3: Piaget's and Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory (Psychology)

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    Piaget and Kohlberg studies the mental process children use to understand their observations and experiences. Children develop organizing categories called schemas. Sex is a very important schema for young children. Their interpretations of the world, of interactions, and of others are limited by their mental maturity. Early on children’s thinking tends to rely on simple (often visual) cues. Females and males look differently in Western culture. Think of how women and men often dress or are often represented in popular culture. What are some of the common characteristics of female/maleness on TV or in movies or children’s books? So children often rely on those “obvious” physical cues to differentiate between men and women.

    Cognitive factors in children's understanding of gender and gender stereotypes may contribute to their acquisition of gender roles. Kohlberg's three-stage cognitive developmental theory of gender typing suggests that children begin by categorizing themselves as male or females with reinforcement from outsiders such parents, and then feel rewarded by behaving in gender-consistent ways from external means. 30 According to Kohlberg, children acquire gender roles after she/he has gained an understanding and awareness that her/his sex is permanent, constant, and will never change. Children who are highly gender schematic often have parents or caregivers, especially fathers, who give them a lot of positive and negative reinforcement when it comes to gender-related activities. This teaches children gender-type behaviors as encourages them to pay more attention to gender as a social organizing category. Gender constancy emerges somewhere between 3-7 years of age.31

    30 Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrykablo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. American
    psychological association. 4(23), 544–557
    31 Ruble DN, Martin C. Gender development. In: Damon W, Eisenberg N, editors. Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3,
    Social, emotional, and personality development. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; 1998. pp. 933–1016.

    This page titled 3.1.3: Piaget's and Kohlberg's Cognitive Developmental Theory (Psychology) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Katie Coleman via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.