What is the Social learning theory of gender development? Lesson 3 – Sex and Gender Unit 2 – Understanding other people.
Lesson objectives You will be able to; • Describe the social learning theory of gender development. • Describe a study to support gender development. • Evaluate the social learning theory of gender development.
Social learning theory. • Social learning theory believes that gender is learnt from watching and copying the behaviour of others. The processes involved in social learning are; • Modelling • Imitation • Vicarious reinforcement.
Modelling. Modelling is defined as a role model provides an example for a child. This means that an adult or another child can act as role models and provide an example for the child to follow. The most likely people to be role models are; • Similar to them – Friends, same sex parent. • Powerful – teachers, older siblings • Loving and caring toward the child – Parents, teachers.
Imitation Imitation is defined as ‘copying the behaviour of a model’. This means that the child will copy the behaviour shown by the model.
Vicarious reinforcement Vicarious reinforcement is defined as ‘learning from the model’s being either punished or rewarded’. This means that the child learns from what happens to a role model when the model carries out a particular behaviour. If the model is rewarded for the behaviour the child is more likely to imitate them that if they were punished.
Perry and Bussey (1979) They investigated to see if children imitate behaviour carried out by a same sex role models. Children were shown films of models carrying out activities that were unfamiliar to the children. In one condition all male role models played with one activity and all the females played with another. In the second activity males and females mixed. In the first condition the children imitated what they had seen they boys choosing the males activity and the girls choosing the female activity. In the second activity there was no difference in what the boys and girls chose to play (played either activity). They concluded that children, in unfamiliar situations, will observe the behaviour of the same sex role models and choose the activity that is appropriate for their sex. So they will imitate behaviour.
Media and gender development The media provide models for gender behaviour. Macklin and Kolbe (1984) claimed that children want to imitate characters on TV because they are often physically attractive. TV shows males and females in stereotypes ways. i.e. women as housewives, secretaries and nurses while men are doctors, police officers and managers.
Williams (1986) They aimed to investigate the effects of TV on the gender development of children. In 1975, Williams studied the effect of TV on children living in Canada. At the beginning of the study one of the towns was being provided with TV for the first time. He measured the attitudes of the children living in these towns before and after a 2 year study. They found that children who now had TV were more sex stereotypes in their attitudes that they were before. He concluded that gender is learnt by imitating attitudes and behaviour seen on TV.
Evaluation • The theory is supported by research. • Doesn’t explain why children brought up in a one parent household have difficultly developing gender. • Doesn’t explain why 2 children brought up in the same household behave differently . • This approach believes that gender is learnt therefore ignores the biological difference.
Plenary Read the report about the effects of footballers behaviour on children. Answer the questions; • Do you agree with what the report is saying? • Explain how this report supports the social learning explanation of gender.