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Gender roles in the communal set up refers to a set of prescribed cultural and social values that the society believes should control the male and female behaviours (Anselmi & Law, 1998, p. 195). In order to understand gender roles and gender stereotypes in the society, scholars have come up with psychological theories to explain these identities. The theories include object-relations theory, gender schema, social role theory, and the evolution theory. This section of the paper reviews the general psychological theories and finds their applicability in a classroom set up with children below the age of 3 years.
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Gender schema theory brings together socialization and the role of cognitive organization in defining gender roles. Gender schema theory holds that the behaviour of the children will be defined by culture and how the society distinguishes the roles of males and females, and they internalise the experience in gender schema. The internalised experiences then become difficult to challenge as they are use to organise subsequent social and cultural behaviours. In the end, children develop their own self-concepts and use them to define the behaviours of males and females. On other words, they develop their gender schema to and behave in accordance to the behaviours they deem fits them.
Evolution theories of gender base its ideals on the fundamental differences between a male and a female at birth. For instance, the functionalism theory argues that both males and females have evolved with distinct features, which compliment their functions. On the other hand, sociobiologists observe that the differences in behaviour between males and females emanate from the sexual and reproductive abilities that allow the sexes to interact and reproduce. In the process, they pass their respective genes to the newborns (Beck, 2010, pp. 80-85).
The object-relations theory differs from the evolution theory in that, it focuses on the roles of social events in shaping gender development. The theory emphasises that the roles of women as the principal caregivers lead to behaviour differences between males and females. The bond created between a mother and a girl differs from the bond created between a mother and a boy. The boys ought to separate their male roles from those of their mothers in order to develop their own identities. On the other hand, the girls do not have to bear the separation but develop their identities along those of their mothers. Hence, the devalued female roles emanates from the painful process that they must undergo in trying to disconnect from the female roles.
Finally, the social theory explains gender roles develop from the ability of the human being to socialise. The division of labour along gender lines and the expected societal stereotypes is responsible for creating different gender roles. For example, the society stereotypes may either create differences in agentic and communal dimensions. The communal role characteristics include the ability to express emotions within the domestic environment; hence, it is associated with the female gender. The agentic role’s attributes include being independent, being assertive, and it is associated with public roles; hence, common among the male gender. The two different gender roles lead to the creation of gender stereotypes with definite endorsements as defined.
The terms gender roles and gender stereotypes have been used interchangeably because they are closely linked. Nonetheless, gender stereotypes refer to the overemphasised tenets on the people on the basis of their distinct social categories (Anselmi & Law, 1998). A good illustration is the perception in the society that males tend to like aggressive and competitive games while female tend to be passive and cooperative. Similarly, women in the society are given the caregiver responsibility while the men are financial providers.
Gender roles become more distinct when men and women reproduce. After giving birth to a child, the females take care of the infants. Care in this sense implies the duty to collect and process relevant information about infant care, health, and general well being of the infant. The responsibilities of women have increased in the modern society and according to studies, this can be attributed to the growing marital dissatisfaction among females (Walzer, 2001).
I attended an observation session during the first class of pupils below 3 years. After a few minutes, a mother brought her child to class. It is obvious that the pupil has been late for the class, and the reason given by the mother was that the boy did not want to come to school. The rebellious nature of the child almost made us conclude that this was not his class. The boy made another attempt to escape from class, but he was forced back into the class. In this scenario, a number of observations concur with the theoretical frameworks developed by the psychologist scholars. According to the object-relations theory women are the principal caregivers, and this can be affirmed given that the rebellious boy was brought to class by his mother. The other behaviour that is consistent with the theory is the rebellious nature of the boy. The theory suggests that the boys must break away from their mothers’ identities and set their own. The boys tend to resist or challenge the system. The other relevance of the theory is its explanation of the assertive nature of the boy. He resists been taken to class and make another attempt to escape until he is forced.
The other observation during the class session made me conclude that the girls were generally silent, shy, and behaved normally. In the contrary, the boys were more impetuous and interfered with the normal class lesson by making noise and interrupting the teacher. The boys also chased and fought in class. The teacher intervened on several occasions to ask them to keep quiet. On the ability to comprehend what the teacher was explaining, boys were more attentive and interested in the class activities than girls. In addition, the aggressive nature of the boys was spread in the entire classroom while the girls remained quiet and shy. The male gender is perceived to be aggressive and competitive, and this explains why the boys are more interested in academics than the girls. In a learning environment, a student who inquires more gains more. The girls cannot gain more knowledge because they feel shy to ask questions like boys.
The other stereotypical trend noticed in the observation time was that in the class, there were 11 boys and 7 girls. The girls preferred to put on pullovers, skirts, and hair ribbons while the boys wore jeans trousers, pullover, and sneakers. Considering colours, the boys preferred dull colours like brown, black, grey, white, and green while the girls liked the bright colours like pink, red and brown. The choice of clothes and colours for both boys and girls show distinct characteristics. According to social theory, the preferences are created by stereotypes in the society. It is unthinkable for a boy to put on skirts because that is a female clothe. The pupils seem to be ware of these stereotypical issues in both the choice of clothes and colours.
In play time, more observations were made. The girls could play amongst themselves and with the boys. One boy was asked to get a brown pencil and use it to colour a chestnut. When the other boys realised that he was sent, they too got into action uninvited by the teacher. They too got their pencils to colour pictures. While the boys were each playing with the pencils, the girls were collectively looking at a book. The social theory is the most relevant theory in explaining the gender roles and stereotypes witnessed in the children’s playing moment. Boys according to the theory prefer playing competitive games while the girls like to play collectively. The other boys were never told to pick brown pencil and colour pictures; but, they did it based on the fact that the teacher had chosen only one of them to colour the picture. In some sort of protects, they invite themselves to play to compete the chosen one.
After moving to classes with older pupils, we realised that they did not have a keen interest in our mission like the younger boys and girls. After my entry into the class, they went on with their businesses as usual. This behaviour difference can be explained using the theory of object-relations. The older children have detached themselves form their caregivers’ actions as they tend to develop their own values and beliefs. On the other hand, the younger children are still attached to their caregivers’ attributes.
The theories of psychology as developed by various scholars apply in the classroom context. The only exception was the evolution theory whose ideals could not be established during class observation time. This could have been due to the set up in the class where the pupils interact with their teachers only. Suppose the observation could have been made in when the children were with their parents back at home, we could have proved the evolution theory. All the other theories could be related to the classroom experience; hence, it is true to argue that children undergo psychological development as they mature.
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