Gender socialization refers to the acquisition of gender identity and the roles expected of the different sexes (Stockard, 2006). UNICEF (2007) reported that gender socialization starts at birth with children learning to identify and comply with gender roles according to cultural prescriptions. These gender expectations continue throughout the life span (UNICEF, 2007). Gender is thus perceived as deeply entrenched in virtually all social spheres of daily life and within social units (Risman, 2004). There are three main theories used to explain gender socialization processes. Psychoanalytic, social learning and cognitive developmental theories offer explanations of gender socialization and help us to understand how gender socialization endures throughout the life-span (Bern, 1983). However, gender schema theory is often presented as an alternative to the three theories (Bern, 1983). This paper analyzes the four theories and identifies the implications of gender socialization.
Psychoanalytic Theory of Gender socialization
Bern (1983) informed that Sigmund Freud was the first psychoanalyst to inquire into how males and females were “transmuted into masculine and feminine” (p. 598). Freud was primarily concerned with explaining the eventual subordinate roles of women (Bern, 1983). Psychoanalytic theorists have drawn on Freud’s inquiries and developed psychoanalytic theory as a means for explaining and understanding gender socialization. ...
135). From the psychoanalytic theorist’s perspective, gender is intricately tied to early childhood development. Psychoanalytic theorists assume a psychoanalytic identification exists in early childhood which refers to a child’s modification of his or own self perceptions in order to incorporate some form of power, capability or trait that is observed in others, typically a parent (Ryle, 2011). Another early childhood identification process occurs in terms of setting “ego boundaries” (Ryle, 2011, p. 136). Ego boundaries is a term coined by Freud to describe “the sense of personal psychological division between” the child and the “world around us” and thus ego boundaries aid the individual in determining where “me” ends and “everything else begins” (Ryle, 2011, p. 146). The significance of ego boundaries to gender socialization is that ego boundaries are not automatic. At first the child’s ego boundaries are influenced by the fact that boys and girls’ identification during infancy is tied to that of their mothers. Thus there is no “sense of ego boundaries” between the infant and the mother (Ryle, 2011, p. 136). Thus, immediately after birth, babies form a sense of union with the mother. However, as time progresses, children eventually learn that although they depend on their mothers for survival, the same is not true of the mother. She can survive without them. Psychoanalytic theory “focuses on how boys and girls resolve the tensions” created “by this realization” (Ryle, 2011, p. 136). As Ryle (2011) puts it, the child rationalizes that: If mom has concerns that are not consistent with my own, mom must actually be separate from me. The process is qualitatively