Conclusions

The descriptions provided concerning the theoretical explanations of sex differentiation allows us to place our own research and perspectives within this context. In general, our research questions and pursuits are heavily grounded in cognitive theories of gender development. We are guided by the view that children's cognitions are important determinants of their sex-typed behaviors. Mainly, this refers to the idea that the acquisition of gender knowledge (i.e., basic identity and stereotypic information) has evaluative, motivational, cognitive (e.g., information processing), and behavioral consequences. Along with this assumption is the idea that children are active information seekers who are intrinsically motivated to learn about and match their behavior to gender norms as an inherent part of gender identity development. We believe, however, that the environment provides the sources for information about gender norms through parental and teacher socialization, same-sex modeling, peer groups, the media, etc. Moreover, we are particularly interested in the developmental change patterns concerning children's gender cognitions and behaviors and believe that these changes are essential to a comprehensive understanding of gender development.

Although cognitive approaches emphasize the role of cognitions in gender differentiation, it is essential to highlight that theorists who adhere to this view do not assert that gender knowledge is the only determinant of sex-typed behaviors (see Aubry et al., 1999; Martin, 1993; Martin et al., 2002, 2004; Ruble & Martin, 1998). For example, it is clearly recognized that biological and social factors play a role in gender development. If a young girl is provided with dolls and is rewarded for engaging in doll play, she is likely to show a preference for dolls even if she has not yet labeled herself as a girl and acquired the knowledge that "dolls are for girls." In addition, it is recognized that girls and boys have biological differences that might predispose them to engage differently in the world. While this point has been made clear in other reviews (see Martin et al., 2002), researchers continue to use findings indicating that preferences appear before knowledge as evidence to critique cognitive accounts (Bandura & Bussey, 2004; Bussey & Bandura, 1999; Campbell et al., 2002; Shirley & Campbell, 2000). Given that cognitive theorists, including ourselves, believe that social and biological factors influence gender development, this is not a valid critique. In a similar vein, current cognitive approaches recognize that certain factors moderate the relationship between gender knowledge and sex-typed behaviors (see Martin et al., 2002). These factors might include toy attractiveness, salience of schemas, accessibility of specific knowledge, situational demands and contexual factors, personal skills, gender attitudes, and degree of gender identification. Cognitive theorists believe that these variables will influence whether children will match their behavior to their understanding of gender norms. It is also not valid then to use studies that do not find a direct relationship between knowledge and behavior as a means to conclude that gender cognitions do not influence gender-typed behavior. Taken together, some of the key questions for cognitive theorists include: What constitutes children's gender knowledge and sex-typed behaviors and how does knowledge and behavior change over time? When and how does children's gender knowledge influence their perceptions, attention, memory, judgements, and behaviors? What factors moderate the relationship between knowledge and behavior? In the next section, we tackle the first question by briefly examining the development of children's stereotype knowledge and sex-typed preferences. Following this review, we consider the relationship between these two forms of gender development.

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