Introduction

Gender serves as one of the most significant identifying labels throughout the life span. While originally a child's sex is based primarily on chromosomal and genital distinctions, this category will follow the child from the birthing room, operating as a life-long functional tag that will influence virtually every aspect of her or his experience. Our society uses sex categories to divide names, public restrooms, pronoun usage, school lines, toys, room decor, clothing and appearance options, hobbies, and occupations. Given societies' insistence on the functional use of sex categories (Bem, 1981), a child's physical, social, cognitive, and emotional milestones will all develop under a gendered umbrella. During some aspects of development, a child's gender tag will be at the forefront of experience while, other times, it will fade into the background providing minimal cues and effects to the situation. Regardless of the degree of salience, an individual's gender1 has meaningful consequences that need to be considered when tackling issues related to child development.

An empirical and theoretical exploration of gender development can take many different forms. For example, researchers have recently highlighted the need to consider the multidimensionality of gender development (Eckes & Trautner, 2000; Hort, Leinbach, & Fagot, 1991; Huston, 1983; Liben & Bigler, 2002; Martin, 2000; Ruble & Martin, 1998; Signorella, 1999). This framework was first outlined in Huston's (1983) comprehensive review of the sex-typing literature and later modified in Ruble and Martin's (1998) updated chapter on gender development. This view recognizes the many distinct and possibly unrelated features of gender development (e.g., knowledge of gender stereotypes, gender attitudes, sex-role identity, sex-typed preferences) and allows researchers to locate their specific issue within a common frame of reference (Eckes & Trautner, 2000).

In the matrix outlined by Huston (1983) and Ruble and Martin (1998), this includes making a distinction between gender constructs and gender content areas. The content areas are divided according to biological/categorical sex, activities and interests, personal-social attributes, gender-based social relationships, styles and symbols, and gender-related values.2 Within each of the six content areas, the four constructs that are considered include concepts or beliefs, identity or self-perception, preferences, and behavioral enactment. Thus, this matrix consists of twenty-four potential ways to locate specific research and theoretical issues related to gender development. This division is especially important because it allows researchers to consider developmental changes and possible relationships between dimensions for each of the unique facets of gender. For instance, research has proposed that knowledge of gender stereotypes increases with age while rigidity of gender attitudes decreases with age (see Signorella, Bigler, & Liben, 1993, and Ruble & Martin, 1998). Moreover, it has been suggested that there is little relationship between different preference areas such as same-sex peer preference and sex-typed toy preference (e.g., Campbell, Shirley, & Caygill, 2002; Shirley & Campbell, 2000). Nevertheless, increasing knowledge of the gender stereotypes associated with toys can influence preferences for those same toys (see Aubry, Ruble, & Silverman, 1999). It, therefore, seems clear that there are many facets to gender development and that a comprehensive and accurate picture would include an assessment of how each dimension is similar and different from the others, and how they influence each other.

In addition to recognizing the multidimensional nature of gender development, it is important to highlight that gender development occurs in a social and cultural context. While children might show particular sex-typed behaviors in front of their peers or with strangers, their behavioral enactment might change when they are surrounded by family or with people who are familiar to them. Incorporating these types of situational and social processes has been a challenge to developmental psychologists who have tended to focus on gender-related cognitions, preferences, and behaviors at the individual level (Eckes & Trautner, 2000; Maccoby, 2002a, 2002b). In contrast, examining social, contextual, and cultural factors related to gender has been of primary interest to social psychologists who, at the same time, have tended to ignore developmental changes and early experiences. This division between the developmental and social psychological approaches motivated Eckes and Trautner (2000) to edit a volume with the aim of integrating the two perspectives. In fact, in their introductory chapter, they broadened the Ruble and Martin (1998) matrix to include multiple levels of analysis. The proposed levels are the individual level, the interpersonal (or interactional) level, the group (or role) level, and the cultural (or societal) level. The addition of these levels produce a 96-cell matrix that will, hopefully, allow both social and developmental researchers to more deliberately pinpoint the questions that they are pursuing and the questions that still need answers.

After outlining the different dimensions and levels of gender development, we are better able to locate our specific research questions and goals of this chapter. Similar to the Aubry et al. (1999) chapter in the first edition of this volume, our aim is to explore children's knowledge of gender stereotypes for objects, activities, and attributes and the influence of this knowledge on children's behavior. While the chapter in the previous edition focused primarily on children's gender-related preferences, our review will expand the discussion to include the effect of stereotype knowledge on children's exploration and performance (i.e., behavioral enactment). This review mainly focuses on issues located at the individual level of analysis; however, other levels are considered when evidence is available and directly relevant to the topic.

Like the Aubry et al. (1999) chapter, our discussion begins with an outline of the different theoretical explanations of sex typing, paying attention to recent changes and debates that have stimulated the field. Given that our research is closely tied to cognitive approaches, we expand this section to review our particular view of gender development. The second section briefly describes the literature concerning knowledge and preference trends and the relationship between these two dimensions, and highlights research and issues that have been raised in this area since the first edition of this volume. Following this review, we present new longitudinal data on the relationship between children's gender stereotype knowledge and preferences and examine how this study provides additional support for cognitive views of gender development. In the last section, experimental studies that have assessed the effects of gender labels on children's exploration, preferences, and performance are explored and explanations for the observed findings are proposed.

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

This is a collection of parenting guides. Within this collection you will find the following titles: Issues, rule and discipline, self esteem and tips plus more.

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