Kohlberg's Cognitive Development Theory

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The cognitive- developmental approach to gender identity posed by Kohlberg (1966, 1969) is one of the studies considered when exploring the theories of gender differentiation and identification. It is a theory that considers cognition aspects of a child and how this affects gender identity development. It is studied due to its evidence, explanation and evaluation which make the theory well-grounded and substantial. The following essay explores this idea, considering its critiques and basis.
The central foundation of the theory is described by cognitive development theorist Lawrence Kohlberg (1966) where he states, “Our approach to the problems of sexual development starts directly with neither biology nor culture, but with cognition” (p.82).
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In a study done by Munroe, Shimmin, and Munroe (1984, A2 Level Psychology) it was found that children of cultural backgrounds went through Kohlberg’s three stages. This is essential as it proves the basis of the theory is available to be used in widespread case and is not isolated to a particular set of features or environment. William Damon (1977, as cited in Craddock, 2002) also tested Kohlberg 's cognitive development theory in a study dealing with 4 to 9 year olds. A scenario featuring a little boy named George who refuses to stop playing with dolls, even though he was told that dolls are toys for girls and that boys should play with other toys was related to each child. The children were then faced with questions about George so as to determine their views on sex role stereotypes. It was found that four year olds believe that cross sex behaviour is acceptable if it is what is preferred by the child. At the age of 6, the children become intolerant of violations against the typical gender stereotypes. The nine year old children’s thoughts and opinions were more abstract and flexible about the gender specific standards being obeyed. This promotes Kohlberg’s stages depicting the increasing cognition and how it relates to gender identity development and consistency. Another test was done by Ruble, Balaban, and Cooper (as cited in Eysenck, Psychology for A2 Level ). They uncovered that when preschool children…show more content…
In this case, we see that some research has depicted that sex-appropriate toys are chosen by children as young as 2 years old and that they prefer to play with other children of the same gender from 3 years of age. In this instance gender roles are displayed by children several years before they have reached peak gender consistency. Thus it poses the thought that not all gender based behaviour is dependent on gender consistency. A very basic understanding of gender is necessary before children conform to gender stereotypes and therefore measures of gender consistency do not fully divulge how “sex-typed” children are (Lobel & Menashri, 1993 as cited in (Eysenck, 2001). Another downfall to Kohlberg’s theory is that it does not account for external factors such as reinforcement from guardians and superiors. However, this has depicted much early gender role behaviour. Kohlberg’s theory is thought to exaggerate the importance of cognitive factors in gender identification.

In contrast, gender identity does seem to develop through the three stages suggested by Kohlberg, as Munroe et al. (1984) found across cultures as mentioned above. Another input that is in favour of cognitive development theory is the notion that gender development involves children actively experiencing their surrounding environments is beneficial, as is the notion that the way in which they interact with
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