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Psychol Bull. 2002 Nov;128(6):903-33.

Cognitive theories of early gender development.

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Department of Family and Human Development, Arizona State University, Tempe 85287-2502, USA.


The contribution of cognitive perspectives (cognitive-developmental theory and gender schema theory) to a contemporary understanding of gender development is evaluated. Recent critiques of cognitive approaches are discussed and empirical evidence is presented to counter these critiques. Because of the centrality of early gender development to the cognitive perspective, the latest research is reviewed on how infants and toddlers discriminate the sexes and learn the attributes correlated with sex. The essence of cognitive approaches--emphasis on motivational consequences of gender concepts; the active, self-initiated view of development; and focus on developmental patterns-is highlighted and contrasted with social-cognitive views. The value of cognitive theories to the field is illustrated, and recommendations are made concerning how to construct comprehensive, integrative perspectives of gender development.

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